Lane Library

Fifth Annual Session of the Medical Society of the State of California
Sacramento, 8-9 February 1860

The meeting was opened by President R. B. Ellis in the chair.

When the roll was called only fourteen members answered to their names. Only three of the members were from San Francisco, namely Professors Cooper and Rowell, and Dr. B. A. Sheldon who was Recording Secretary of the Society. There were eight members from Sacramento and three from towns in that vicinity. [23]

Letters of resignation were received from two more influential members, Drs. S. M. Mouser and John F. Morse of Sacramento, both of whom served on the Committee on Medical Education. Dr. Morse, and Dr. Thomas M. Logan who had resigned in 1859, were chiefly responsible for aligning the Sacramento Medical Society with Cooper's original proposal to establish the State Society. Five new members were admitted to the State Society during the session, more than offsetting the numerical loss of two by resignation.

The Finance Committee reported that previous imprudent expenditures had resulted in the accumulation of an unfunded debt of about five hundred dollars. It was necessary to raise this amount at once by voluntary contributions from the much reduced membership of the Society. Cooper was greatly heartened by the manner in which the members, present and absent, responded to the fiscal emergency. They promptly retired the debt by personal donations. This led the ever-hopeful Cooper to declare that [24]

Now no medical man of intelligence in California can doubt but that the (Society) will occupy in future a sphere of great usefulness and distinction. We may expect its sessions to be occupied henceforth by the reading of reports containing the improvements and discoveries made in medicine and surgery throughout the State, during each year, by which every member may be a recipient of the benefits conferred by the industry and invention of all others.

Selection of officers was the next order of business and the following were duly elected:

  • President: Isaac Rowell, M. D.
  • Vice Presidents: R. Beverly Cole, M. D., and three others
  • Corresponding Secretary: E. S. Cooper, M. D.
  • Censors: Henry Gibbons, M. D. and six others

With respect to the Standing Committees normally appointed during the session by the incoming President, it was decided to grant President Rowell a period of three months in which to make his selections. (We have been unable to find a list of the members of these Standing Committees although we do know that Cooper was appointed to the Standing Committee on Surgery.)

All the malcontents and disillusioned members of the Society having now resigned, the above slate of officers was congenial to Cooper and to his conception of the Society's proper functions. Small wonder that he should at this point breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the "unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action" which had so far been absent from the Society's annual proceedings.

The latter part of each session was customarily allocated to the scientific program and Reports of Standing Committees. On this occasion there were no papers to be presented and only Cooper was prepared with a Committee Report. He, in his usual thorough manner, delivered an elaborate three-part Report from the Committee on Surgery. He began with an exposition on the importance of early, wide and open drainage of septic joints, insisting that admission of air into joints is not harmful as commonly supposed. He then discussed successful reimplantation of a traumatically amputated thumb, and the capacity of bone to reconstitute itself after being subperiosteally resected. All this was most favorably received and the discussion was animated. Cooper was elated for there was more good feeling and rapport among the small group than the beleaguered Society had yet seen.

As a kind of benediction at the close of this gratifying session, Cooper offered the following Resolution:

Resolved: That the members present pledge themselves to fidelity in carrying out the objects for which the Society was formed, viz: promoting unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action among medical men of the State, in their efforts to advance our noble profession.

The Resolution was adopted and the Society adjourned, sine die. The session had lasted only two days instead of the usual three.

In the months following the Fifth Session Cooper made a valiant effort to restore the confidence and interest of the medical profession in the State Society. He wrote two lengthy editorials in the Medical Press and a letter to the membership exhorting all hands to attend the Sixth Session which was scheduled to begin on 13 February 1861. The meeting was again to be held on the neutral ground of Sacramento.

In his two editorials, published in the October 1860 and the January 1861 issues of the Press, Cooper again reviewed the history of the Society, rebuked those enemies of medical improvement who sought its control for selfish purposes, and praised the Society's great potential - "so that a brilliant career may justly be anticipated for it in the future; and let not those who wish to see the profession of the State advance, fail to be in attendance at the next meeting." [25] [26]

The following is the letter sent by Cooper to all California physicians urging their attendance at the 1861 Session of the State Society: [27]

San Francisco, 10 December 1860

Dear Sir:

As Corresponding Secretary of the State Medical Society it becomes my duty to memorialize the members of the approaching Anniversary which will be on 13 February 1861; and not knowing who or where all the members are I send this circular to all the medical men of the State whose names and Post Office addresses are recorded in the State Register, thinking thereby to be sure of notifying all. It is desirable to have members who can attend the meeting to do so because all will thereby be benefited by the mutual labor of all. In our profession the members perform so much (intense) labor and submit to so many self sacrifices that it becomes our duty to ourselves and to our common cause to stand by each other in every honorable way and nothing strengthens our bond of union so much as meeting each other frequently in associations for medical improvement.

I would most earnestly recommend the formation of local medical societies in every county in the State where none exist at this time. From those, delegates should be sent to the meetings of the State Society so that every part of the State may be represented.

Finally I would beg to urge those who have been appointed upon the Standing Committees to be prepared to make full reports by the time of the approaching meeting so that not only unanimity of feeling and concurrence of action may prevail but also that the accumulation of valuable facts embraced in the reports may this year give a decided advance to Medicine and Surgery on this coast.

E.S. Cooper, M. D.

Corresponding Secretary

State Medical Society

Lane Library