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Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


E-Travel has placed a digital copy of the 1904 PCDS Record online.  Volume I of the History of Dental Surgery has a history of the college, written by Dr. George W. Warren, who taught there.  P.C.D.S. also published the Dental Times.


Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery was a continuation of Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery, a school that had closed in 1855 over a dispute about the awarding of honorary degrees. The new college, incorporated in April 1856, opened in October with 33 students.  In the spring commencement of 1857, there were 13 graduates.


Moving to a new location in 1863, P.C.D.S. continued to grow.  In 1872 it became the first dental school to admit women.  Though the male students petitioned for their removal, two women graduated in 1894, one ranking third in the class.  Each succeeding class had female representation.


In 1878 the University of Pennsylvania invited P.C.D.S. to become its dental college.  Requiring a unanimous vote, this offer was rejected.  When the University opened its own dental college, some PCDS students and faculty elected to transfer.  Nevertheless P.C.D.S. continued to operate, entering into an arrangement with Jefferson Medical College that allowed dental students to take classes toward a medical degree.



PCDS Banjo Club (PCDS Record, <>)

P.C.D.S. continued to strengthen its program; the initial two terms of five months each became three terms of seven months. Enrollment average more than 300 students, and graduation classes averaged more than 100 through the 1890’s.


Students at P.C.D.S. had access to the usual societies, fraternities and clubs.  The three societies—all local—were Pierce Dental Society, Women’s Dental Society, and the Litch Society of Stomatology.  P.C.D.S. had chapters of Psi Omega and Xi Psi Phi dental fraternities and  in 1877 received a chapter of Kappa Alpha social fraternity.  There were also an Arts and Science Club and a Gridiron Club.  A Glee Club and a Banjo Club provided musical entertainment. 


The best known graduate of P.C.D.S. was John Henry “Doc” Holiday (above right), a native of Georgia, who received a D.D.S. degree in 1872.  


Without funds to modernize equipment, P.C.D.S. was forced to end its independent status in 1909, merging with the University of Pennsylvania.  



Bricks and Mortar

In 1863 increased enrollment caused the school to move to a new location at 10th and Arch Streets.  With the admission of women, increased enrollment, and a lengthened school term, the school continued to need more space.  This they found at the 12th and Filbert Street location.  The new location allowed for the first dissecting room at a dental college.  It also allowed P.C.D.S. to serve as a dental clinic for working class residents of the area.  Students and staff performed more than 3,000 dental procedures each year.  The final move was to the northeast corner of 11th and Clinton streets.  There P.C.D.S. constructed a three-story brick building with a one hundred foot frontage. The ground floor contained offices, two lecture rooms and the museum.  The second floor contained the main lecture room.  The third floor contained the dissecting rooms.


For a time it housed the Daniel Baugh Institute of Anatomy of Jefferson Medical College.  The building today is part of the Clinton Street Historic District, a part of the National Register since 1972.  



Like most colleges with large groups of young men, P.C.D.S. fielded a football team.  In 1896 the team lost to the Stevens Athletic Association at Camden, NJ 8-6 in one of the “cleanest games” ever played.  They also seem to have had a yearly match with Philadelphia Dental College, to whom they lost in both 1898 and 1899.



1899 view of the Clinton Street building.  Today the building is called Clinton Place, an upscale apartment complex.;view=1up;seq=6  accessed 10-29-2017

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