same generation—those who experienced the now-defunct golden age of medicine.
One of them, Dr. John Keller, could not resist sharing with your readers a rather humorous twist on the house call. It involved a woman who deviously took advantage of his good nature by claiming that her uncle was ill in order to have his visit actually serve to trap and subsequently remove a rat. This incident reminded me of a somewhat similar event, though one based on an honest request, that occurred during my own career as a surgeon.
One evening at home, I received a telephone call from a close friend who hysterically asked if I could come to her home immediately. I, of course, was concerned that some form of medical emergency had occurred. But she related that, prior to leaving her home several days earlier, she had set several mousetraps. Upon her return that night (sans her husband), she discovered a dead mouse in a trap in her kitchen. The sight of it was so repulsive that she could not face the problem and pleaded with me to come dispose of the carcass. To which I replied very nonchalantly, "Sally, don't you know that nowadays doctors don't make mouse calls . . ."
Needless to say, as did Dr. Keller, I followed through in my role as a humanitarian (and mortician?). It did not take long for my friend to appreciate the deed as both humorous and priceless. Edward Tober, M.D. Hanover, N.H.
History of a compact desk I was pleased to see the piece on the Wooten desk—er, sorry, cabinet secretary—given by the Class of 1877 to Dartmouth President Asa Dodge Smith and then passed down through the Smith family to the third generation, my father, Thayer Adams Smith, DC '10.
Not noted in the article was the fact that my father was also an M.D. He received his medical degree from Columbia in 1914. The reason he didn't continue his education at Dartmouth Medical School may have been because his father's tenure as the dean of DMS ended in 1909 with his death (and my father's mother had died several years previously).
At any rate, my father went on to serve as a medical officer during World War I and eventually met the right girl and married her in 1923. They decided, for purposes of raising a family, to leave New York City for a suburban environment in New Jersey. With the deepening of the Great Depression, he took a medical administrative job with Mutual Benefit in Newark. He commuted to work on the Lackawanna Railroad, leaving in the morning and returning at day's end, and so we several boys were not aware that he was even a doctor.
Later, eager to put his medical education to use in actual patient care, my father took the bold step of going into private practice and built an office suite off our house. It was there the Wooten desk found its place in the consultation room. The article shows one view of the desk with its hinged sides closed, but we kids never saw it in that position; they were invariably open. My father decided that the sine qua non purpose of a desk—er, cabinet secretary—was as a writing surface, so that portion, shown latched and still in its vertical position in another
photo, was always down in its horizontal position.
I might add that when the Smiths decided collectively to donate the desk to the College, its finish had over the years lost a good deal of its attractive glow. Dartmouth restored it to what was likely its original appearance, now on view in the DMS dean's office.
Thayer A. Smith, Jr., M.D.,
DC '45, DMS '45
Wooton you know
The Wooton Desk depicted here in the Fall 2005 issue of Dartmouth Medicine has yet another connection to Dartmouth, because it was made by
William S. Wooton, my maternal great grandfather. (The spelling is Wooton, though it is pronounced "Wooten.") William was one of 13 children in a family that had roots in North Carolina and that migrated west to Ohio (where William was born in 1835) and Indiana. He was a Quaker minister who began furniture manufacturing in 1859, probably to supplement his meager stipend. He married Theodocia Stratton, also a Quaker minister, in 1862, and she bore him eight children—three girls and five boys.
Wooton began manufacturing desks in Indianapolis in 1870 and patented his cabinet office secretary on October 6, 1874, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. Wooton desks—known as the "king of desks" with "a place for everything and everything in its place"—were characterized by multiple pigeonholes and compartments. There were four grades—ordinary, standard, extra, and superior—with the better grades having more ornamentation and exotic woods. The standard grade could be purchased for as little as $135, while the superior grade cost as much as $750.
John D. Rockefeller, Ulysses S. Grant, and Joseph Pulitzer owned Wooton desks. One was commissioned by Queen Victoria for her personal use, and it may be this desk that John Fontaine sold for $123,200 in January 2002, as reported in Maine Antique Digest. The company closed in 1893, and rights to the patent