Keokuk Medical College,
College of Physicians and Surgeons
I didn’t actually have much hope for materials on Keokuk Medical College. I knew that the Iowa Historical Society had a copy of the 1907 Chieftain, but it wasn’t clear that this was actually a yearbook. To my delight, the Iowa City library worker brought out both the 1907 and 1908 Chieftain—definitely a yearbook—and the 1900 Class Book. The Keokuk Public Library provided information about the fate of college buildings.
The twentieth-century medical school in Keokuk was the result of an 1899 merger between the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Keokuk Medical College. College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Upper Mississippi had its origin in La Porte, IN in 1846. Moved to Davenport, IA, it received a charter from the state legislature as the Medical Department of the Iowa State University. It retained that name until 1870, when it assumed an independent status, reclaiming the name College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The rival Keokuk Medical College was founded in 1890. From an initial 143 students, the enrollment increased each year until its merger with College of Physicians and Surgeons. The 1907 Chieftain shows that Keokuk Dental College (founded in 1897) and Keokuk College of Pharmacy (founded 1900) had also merged with the medical schools.
The 1907 Chieftain shows a student body of around 220. There were 141 students in the medical school, with 30 graduates. There were 54 students in the three-year dental program, with 19 graduates. There were 14 pharmacy students and 10 enrolled in a nursing program. Most medical students were members of the George Jenkins Medical Society. Dental students were members of the Psi Omega fraternity or the Dental Society of Keokuk Dental College.
In 1908 pressure from the American Medical Association for medical schools to be associated with a regular university led the Keokuk medical complex to move to Des Moines to become the medical department of Drake University.
Bricks and Mortar
College of Physicians and Surgeons moved into a seven-story facility at Third and Palean. In1856 the school built a new building at Seventh and Blondeau. That building was razed between 1910 and 1913 to make way for a new Masonic Lodge.
When Keokuk Medical College opened, it opened in a new building located at 625 Blondeau. One of the impulses for the opening of the new college was a desire for a “modern, well-equipped, high grade” building. Its auditorium had 300 opera chairs. It contained “thoroughly equipped chemical, physiological, pathological and bacteriological laboratories.” After the college left, the building was purchased by the Keokuk Gate City Daily newspaper and was in use until 1975.
Colors: Purple and Gold
Keokuk Medical played football each season between 1897 and closure. The Chieftain notes that in 1907 the “faculty voted $50 to buy suits, blankets, and other necessary paraphernalia” for the football team. From a winless start, the team improved until it went undefeated in 1904. The 1906 team won two and lost two.
Among opponents were Illinois College, Monmouth, Lombard, Gem City Business College and Blandinsville AC in Illinois; American College of Osteopathy in Missouri; Iowa Wesleyan and Elliott Business College in Iowa and Carthage College in Wisconsin.
A drawing of Keokuk Medical College at 625 Blondeau. (Chieftain, Courtesy of Iowa Historical Society)
he undefeated 1904 Keokuk Medical College football team. (Chieftain, Courtesy of Iowa Historical Society)