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Dr. Otto U. King

Location: 322 N. Jefferson St., Huntington (Huntington County, Indiana) 46750

Installed 2018 Indiana Historical Bureau and the Huntington County Historical Society

ID#: 35.2018.1

 Visit the Indiana History Blog to learn more about Dr. King's efforts to mobilize dentists during World War I.

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Side One:

Dr. Otto U. King, 1873-1951

Huntington dentist Dr. Otto King was essential in leading the American Dental Association as its first General Secretary and Editor, 1913-1927. He founded The Journal of the American Dental Association, first published in this city by Whitelock Press. JADA facilitates the international exchange of dental research and professionalization of the field of dentistry.

Side Two:

Otto U. King, D.D.S, F.A.C.D.

Dr. King advocated for better dental education, preventative dentistry, and free dental care for children. As member of Committee on Dentistry, Council of National Defense, he mobilized dentists for WWI service to treat oral trauma inflicted by trench warfare. Promoted free care of recruits barred due to dental issues. Co-founded American College of Dentists, 1920.

Annotated Text

Side One:

Dr. Otto U. King, 1873-1951[1]

Huntington dentist Dr. Otto King was essential in leading the American Dental Association as its first General Secretary and Editor, 1913-1927.[2] He founded The Journal of the American Dental Association, first published in this city by Whitelock Press. JADA facilitates the international exchange of dental research and professionalization of the field of dentistry.[3]

Side Two:

Otto U. King, D.D.S, F.A.C.D.

Dr. King advocated for better dental education, preventative dentistry, and free dental care for children.[4] As member of Committee on Dentistry, Council of National Defense, he mobilized dentists for WWI service to treat oral trauma inflicted by trench warfare.[5] Promoted free care of recruits barred due to dental issues. Co-founded American College of Dentists, 1920.[6]

 

[1] “Otto U King,” Passport Application, issued July 8, 1924, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; “Otto U King,” Death Certificate, August 31, 1951, Roll 08, Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011, accessed AncestryLibrary.com.

[2] “King Otto U,” Huntington City Directory (1904), Indiana Room, Huntington Public Library, submitted by applicant; General Secretary, Otto U. King, D.D.S., Huntington, Indiana, Official Bulletin of the National Dental Association 1, no. 4 (October 1914), submitted by applicant; Otto U. King, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., Chicago, Illinois, “Cooperation of the American Dental Association in Connection with the Advancement of Dental Education,” The Journal of the American Dental Association (June 1924): 523-534, submitted by applicant; Otto U. King, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., Chicago, Illinois, “Historical Record of the American Dental Association,” The Journal of the American Dental Association (May 1924): 464-465, submitted by applicant; “Dental Journal Published Here,” Huntington Press, August 29, 1926, 36, accessed Newspapers.com; “Dr. King Quits Dental Office: Resigns as National Association Secretary After 14 Years’ Service,” Detroit Free Press, October 25, 1927, accessed Newspapers.com; “Otto U. King,” The Journal of the American Dental Association 57 (November 1963): 41/641, American Dental Association (ADA) Archives, submitted by applicant; James Berry, “One Man, Two Very Large Hats,” ADA News 43, no. 22 (December 10, 2012): 22, ADA Archives, submitted by applicant.

Dr. Otto U. King was born in Huntington, Indiana in 1873. He graduated from the Northwestern University Dental School in 1897 and returned to his hometown to practice dentistry privately. According to an article published in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) in 1963, he was elected secretary of the Indiana State Dental Association in 1907 and in 1914 he became president of the organization. He assumed a leadership role in dentistry on a national scale in 1913, when he was elected the general secretary of the reorganized National Dental Association (NDA). Officials renamed the organization the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1922. According to James Berry’s “One Man, Two Very Large Hats,” during Dr. King’s tenure the office of general secretary was the “forerunner to today’s executive director.” In this leadership role, Dr. King worked to improve dental education standards, inform the public about the importance of preventative dental care, and facilitate the exchange of research findings among dental professionals (see footnote 3).

Dr. King’s foremost accomplishment as general secretary was the establishment of a professional journal, published out of Huntington by Whitelock Press. First published as the Official Bulletin of the National Dental Association in 1913 (later renamed The Journal of the American Dental Association), the journal helped transform dentistry from a trade to a profession (see footnote 3). Dr. King served as general secretary until 1927, when he resigned to return to private practice. The Detroit Free Press noted that his announcement “fell like a bombshell” and that his associates “were generous in praise of his work in developing the society [ADA] from an insignificant beginning to its present importance.”

[3] Victor C. Vaughan, M.D., “The Functions of Dentistry and Medicine in Race Betterment,” The Official Bulletin of the National Dental Association 1, no. 4 (October 1914): 14-15, accessed jada.ada.org; Arthur D. Black, A.M., M.D., D.D.S., “The Conduct of State Societies and Their Components in Planning of Programs,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 2, iss. 2 (May 1915): 110-118, accessed jada.ada.org; “Commercialism vs. Professional Ethics,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 2, iss. 4 (November 1915): 414, accessed jada.ada.org; Otto U. King, D.D.S., Huntington, Indiana, “The Establishment of Our Own Monthly Journal,” The Journal of the National Dental Association (read at an NDA meeting on July 25-28, 1916): 28-35, submitted by applicant; Otto U. King, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., Chicago, Illinois, “Cooperation of the American Dental Association in Connection with the Advancement of Dental Education,” The Journal of the American Dental Association (June 1924): 523-534, submitted by applicant; “Dental Journal Published Here,” Huntington Press, August 29, 1926, 36, accessed Newspapers.com; Otto U. King, D.D.S., Huntington, Indiana, “A State Society’s Aim: Making Efficient Dentists,” The Journal of the National Dental Association (no date): 260, submitted by applicant; “Early Years of Publication,” The Journal of the American Dental Association 67 (November 1963): 24/264, ADA Archives, submitted by applicant; Lon W. Morrey, D.D.S., Chicago, “The Journal of the American Dental Association: A Fifty Year Chronicle,” no journal title or date provided, submitted by applicant; James Berry, “One Man, Two Very Large Hats.”

Dr. King helped transform dentistry from a trade to a profession primarily through the establishment of The Journal of the American Dental Association, published in Huntington and distributed nationally. Dr. King founded the publication with assistance from National Dental Association President Homer C. Brown in 1913. Dr. King served as first editor of the quarterly journal, originally published as the Official Bulletin of the National Dental Association. In 1915, the publication’s name changed to The Journal of the National Dental Association and to The Journal of the American Dental Association in 1922, when the association changed its name. Under Dr. King’s initiative, the journal became a monthly publication in 1917 and readership grew exponentially. The Huntington Press reported in 1926 that the dental association circulated more than 30,000 copies per month and that its publication “helps the Huntington Post-office, the receipts for mailing the magazine being a large item in the local postal income.”

Dr. King remarked on the importance of a professional dental publication in a 1916 address read before the National Dental Association, noting that journals had been operated by firms that manufactured and sold dental supplies, which inhibited impartial research and review.  He noted that such trade journals “cannot publish freely or frankly many things of vital interest to the dental profession for fear of giving offense to some of those who purchase the goods its owner has for sale.” Therefore, the establishment of a journal owned by dental practitioners helped professionalize the field. Dentists across the nation-notably those in remote areas-could learn about best practices, research findings, educational and professional opportunities, and new dental theories through articles such as “The Functions of Dentistry and Medicine in Race Betterment,” (1914), “The Conduct of State Societies and Their Components in Planning of Programs,” (1915), and “Commercialism vs. Professional Ethics” (1915).

Dr. King contended that “The profession of dentistry had its beginning in the foundation of the dental journal, as it presented to the earnest practitioner from its inception a medium for the exchange of thought and experience.” He described the journal as a “mouthpiece for the profession” and a “real daily textbook for the student and practitioner.” Under Dr. King’s editorship, the journal helped mobilize dentists for World War I service and shared findings related to the treatment of war-related injuries (see footnote 5). JADA remains one of the most read dental journals in the U.S.

[4] “Dr. King Is Honored,” Huntington Press, January 17, 1917, 3, accessed Newspapers.com; Otto U. King, D.D.S., Huntington, Indiana, “Oral Hygiene and Its Relation to Public and Individual Health,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 4, no. 2 (February 1917): 133-148, submitted by applicant; Otto U. King, D.D.S., Chicago, Illinois, “’Fourteen Points’ in Professional Success,” The Journal of the National Dental Association, submitted by applicant; “Chicagoan to Speak at Dentists’ Meet,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 11, 1921, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; Otto U. King, D.D.S., F.A.C.D., Chicago, Illinois, “Cooperation of the American Dental Association in Connection with the Advancement of Dental Education,” The Journal of the American Dental Association (June 1924): 526-531, submitted by applicant; Otto U. King, D.D.S., Chicago, Illinois, “Solving the Oral Hygiene Problem: The Three Problems,” The Journal of the National Dental Association (read at an NDA meeting on October 20-24, 1919), submitted by applicant.

Through speeches, publications, and content published in The Journal of the American Dental Association during his editorship, Dr. King advocated for the improvement of dental education standards, public campaigns to promote preventative practices, and free dental treatment for children. In his 1924 “Cooperation of the American Dental Association in Connection with the Advancement of Dental Education,” Dr. King lamented the shortage of American dentists and the lack of standard dental laws regarding qualifying tests. He called for the ADA to be the “central representative body” that would remedy the “dental education problem.” As general secretary of the ADA, Dr. King enhanced dental education by promoting the association’s Research Commission, which gave research grants to students, professionals, and scientists.  He contended that the commission:

has accented and encouraged the scientific atmosphere throughout the dental profession and the dental college, which has already proved and will continue to prove of inestimable value for the establishing of a more scientific profession and demonstrating the necessity for large endowments for dental research work.

As a leading ADA figure, Dr. King worked to establish a research library that would make dental publications available to both students and practicing dentists who wished to educate themselves. Dr. King contributed to dental education directly by teaching, serving as a lecturer for a New York post-graduate program affiliated with Columbia University. The Huntington Press noted in 1917 that “The lectures are to be given for the benefit of the dental profession, which has never enjoyed the benefit of a large post-graduate school where in a very short time dentists could learn the latest methods of the profession.”

As general secretary of the ADA and editor of the JADA, Dr. King emphasized the importance of dental prevention. He encouraged the public to take control of their oral health, rather than rely on dentists when problems arose. In a paper published in The Journal of the National Dental Association in 1917, Dr. King contended that “the next step in the development of better health thru oral hygiene, lies in education, preventative practice and a more thorough understanding among the dental and medical progression of ‘socialized health as against capitalized disease.’” He noted that most infectious diseases, such as diphtheria and small-pox, entered through the nose and mouth, making the maintenance of a healthy oral environment crucial. Dr. King called for a mass campaign that would convince the public of the need to habitually practice dental habits, such as routine brushing, in order to prevent costly and painful treatments in the future. During Dr. King’s term as general secretary, the ADA’s Council on Mouth Hygiene and Public Instruction met the demands of educators, dentists, and government organizations for educational dental material by supplying them with films, pamphlets, slides, and lectures. He noted in 1924 that the “council has perfected a plan of organization that will include every state society, so that we may be able to carry on our propaganda work through a regular organized channel in each state.”

Dr. King emphasized dental prevention for children, particularly those too poor to afford treatment. He noted that many children missed school due to infections and malnutrition caused by defective teeth, but their parents lacked the resources to treat the maladies. Dr. King hoped to prevent these painful and disruptive dental issues by educating children about hygiene, through demonstrations and nursery rhymes, and by offering free preventative treatment. In an address about oral hygiene, Dr. King proclaimed that “For years we have been trying to dam back or cure diseased bodies, due to neglected Oral Hygiene conditions, but overlooking the source or beginning of life as represented in childhood as the place to teach and establish preventative medicine.” He helped establish free clinics on the East Coast and implored the public and lawmakers to invest in their establishment, stating in 1917 that “Disease is a social menace, an enemy of the State.” In a 1920 criticism of American dental care, Dr. King noted that “The children of our country deserve as effective physical care as the livestock.” He anticipated backlash for proposing a system of socialized medicine, but defended the welfare of children as a “great humanitarian mission” (1919). 

[5] “Dr. King Appointed,” Huntington Herald, June 12, 1916, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Asks Dentists on U.S. Staff: Dr. King to Appear Before House Military Affairs Committee,” Huntington Herald, March 14, 1917, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “20,000 Dentists Join in Preparedness Move to Assist U.S. Forces,” Huntington Press, March 31, 1917, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; “Dentists Pledged to Aid Recruits in Entering Army,” Huntington Press, April 5, 1917, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; Leo Eloesser, “Gunshot Wounds and Lesions Produced by Shell and Shrapnel in the Jaws and Face,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 4, iss. 11 (November 1917): 1187-1196, accessed jada.ada.org; “Committee on Dentistry, General Medical Board of Council of National Defense,” Report No. 1 (Washington, D.C., April 8, 1917) in The Journal of the National Dental Association, 640-644, submitted by applicant; “Committee on Dentistry, General Medical Board of Council of National Defense,” (Washington, D.C., June 24, 1917) in The Journal of the National Dental Association, 810, submitted by applicant; “How May You Assist the Medical Department of the United States Army?,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 4, iss. 8 (August 1917): 903-905, accessed http://jada.ada.org/article/S0097-1901(17)48010-8/fulltext; “You Can Help Win the War!—An Appeal for Prompt Individual Service by Every Member,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 5, iss. 7 (July 1918): 756-757, accessed jada.ada.org; Henry M. Hyde, “Yanks’ Teeth On Edge for Fight; Thanks Dentists,” Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1918, 5, accessed Newspapers.com; “Vital War Work of the Dentists,” New York Times, August 11, 1918, submitted by applicant; John M. Hyson, Jr., DDS, Joseph W.A. Whitehorne, PhD, and John T. Greenwood, PhD, A History of Dentistry in the US Army to World War II (Falls Church, VA: Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army and Washington, D.C.: Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 2008), 423.

In 1916, as the United States edged closer to the war raging abroad, Dr. King was appointed to examine dentists wanting to serve in the dental department of the officers reserve corps. By March 31, 1917, just days before the U.S. entered World War I by declaring war on Germany, Dr. King gave an interview printed in newspapers across the country regarding the Preparedness League of American Dentists. The Preparedness League was an extension of the National Dental Association, which Dr. King helped lead as general secretary. The emergence of trench warfare during World War I created an urgent need for dentists on the frontlines and the Preparedness League worked to recruit dentists from every state for Army and Navy service. According to A History of Dentistry in the US Army to World War II, the U.S. Army “was in urgent need of dentists with a ‘knowledge of oral surgery and a genius for prosthetic restoration’ to work with the surgeons in treating the large number of facial and jaw wounds encountered in trench war.’”

In his interview, Dr. King explained that the League would respond to this need by securing “in each locality, a nucleus of the trained dental specialists, who will assist in the instructions of the members of the unit along the lines of war dental surgery, as a measure of preparedness against war and to co-operate in treatment of wounds of the jaws and face, in case of actual warfare.” He stated that “Whereas Red Cross base hospitals are being formed, we are, as fast as possible, organizing dental units in connection therewith and co-operation is established between the organizations.” According to a New York Times article published in 1918, the Preparedness League outfitted dental ambulances sent to the warfront to reach patients in “out-of-the way places.” In addition to treating the wounded, these ambulances isolated men in order to prevent the spread of disease, such as mumps and German measles. The New York Times article reported that “at least 20 per cent of the men are incapacitated and kept from active service on account of illness finding its source in diseased conditions of the mouth.” Dr. King reported that in response to trench warfare some dental schools began offering special courses related to war dental surgery. JADA published the findings of American dental surgeons about war-related treatment, such as Leo Eloesser’s November 1917 “Gunshot Wounds and Lesions Produced by Shell and Shrapnel in the Jaws and Face.”

Due to his efforts to mobilize dentists for war service, Dr. King was appointed as one of twelve members on the Committee on Dentistry, General Medical Board of the Council of National Defense. Dr. King headed the Committee on Publicity, a subcommittee tasked with publishing the activities of the Committee on Dentistry. Dr. King utilized The Journal of the National Dental Association, of which he served as editor, to advance the Committee’s goal to recruit dentists for Army service. A June 24, 1917 report of the Committee of Dentistry, noted that Dr. King’s Committee on Publicity:

enlisted the hearty cooperation of The Journal of the National Dental Association in giving publicity to the activities of the Committee on Dentistry to the extent of devoting a large part of The Journal to this work, and in addition sending out to each of the 25,000 members of the Association an application blank to the Dental Reserve Corps with the further intention of repeating this in the July issue of The Journal.

Under Dr. King’s direction, the journal published pieces such as “You Can Help Win the War!—An Appeal for Prompt Individual Service by Every Member” and “How May You Assist the Medical Department of the United States Army?” He also mobilized dentists at a local level. In July 1917, Colonel Kean ordered Dr. King to choose dentists to serve at base hospital No. 32, located in Indianapolis.

In addition to mobilizing dentists for Army service, Dr. King advocated for the free treatment of recruits barred from service due to dental issues. He noted in his interview about the Preparedness League that “more than 2,000 applicants for enlistment were in danger of being refused entrance into the fighting force of the nation because of defective teeth.” In April 1917, he volunteered to personally treat rejected recruits and he presented the City of Huntington with a resolution passed at the Wabash Valley District Dental Association, in which local dentists pledged to prepare the mouths of two rejected recruits. Under his direction, the ADA hosted a “Help Win the War” convention in 1918, which featured a series of clinics regarding dental treatment and military recruitment. The Chicago Tribune reported that by the time of the conference Preparedness League members had performed more than 500,000 free operations on recruits, enabling them to pass the military’s physical examination.

[6] “Dentists Meet at Boston: 5,000 Attend 24th Annual Convention—Form College in Chicago,” New York Times, August 24, 1920, accessed Newspapers.com; “Communication from Dr. Otto U. King” in Dental Items of Interest: A Monthly Journal of Dental Science, Art and Literature, ed. R. Ottolengui, M.S.D., D.D.S., L.L.D. 43 (Jan-Dec 1921), 254, accessed Google Books; “The American College of Dentists,” The Journal of the National Dental Association 8, no. 10 (October 1921): 862, accessed Google Books; “Countdown to 100 Years!,” ACD News 46, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 1, 6, submitted by applicant.

The College of American Dentists newsletter credits Dr. King as one of four prominent dental figures that founded the College created to “shape dentistry without political ties and shaped by the highest ideals.” The newsletter reported that at the time of the organization’s formation:

it was the dawn of the Roaring Twenties and it was a period of great change in the health professions and dentistry. . . . Proprietary dental education was also quite common and was tarnishing our profession. Advanced education and training were extremely limited. Dental research was rare and the little work that was being done had few avenues for being effectively communicated. Commercial control of dental journalism was rampant. In short, dentistry had very serious problems.

The four founders conceived of the idea in May 1920 at a meeting of the Iowa State Dental Association and in August 1921 the College convened its first meeting. Dr. King’s Editorial Department at The Journal of the National Dental Association described the purpose of the College, noting it sought “to bring together in a group the men of outstanding prominence in the profession and by their united efforts . . .  to aid in the advancement of the standards and efficiency of American dentistry.” More specifically, the organization sought to cultivate “professional spirit,” generate “social responsibility,” stimulate “advanced work in dental art,” and honor notable dental figures. The College of American Dentists continues to recognize outstanding professionals in the field of dentistry.