In 1887, John Latenser, Sr. (1858-1936), set up an architectural practice in Omaha. His practice spanned more than 50 years, with commissions for many of the city’s larger civic and commercial building projects, including the Douglas County Courthouse, Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, Brandeis Department Store, and Central, North and South High Schools. For several decades Latenser was the primary architect for the University of Nebraska College of Medicine (later UNMC). Latenser may have envisioned this concept plan (see image) for the medical campus as early as 1915, with this rendering of the plan dated 1921.
Charles Poynter, M.D. (College of Medicine Dean 1930-46) wrote, “The 1911 Legislature provided $100,000 for a college building . . . finished in the fall of 1913, the school was set up in the new building. In the original campus plan, provision was made for a 500 bed teaching hospital consisting of five units. In 1915, $l50,000 was appropriated for the first unit. John Latenser & Sons were engaged to draw the plans and have since been in charge of all campus building.”
In 1919, Irving Cutter, M.D. (College of Medicine Dean 1915-25) wrote, “With the construction of the South Lab Building (Bennett Hall) and the Central Power Plant, the total cost of buildings on the medical campus will exceed a half million dollars. The South Lab Building . . . in general architecture, is an exact duplicate of the North Lab Building (Poynter Hall).”
Latenser’s campus plan was never completed as envisioned. Conkling Hall (first permanent College of Nursing building) was completed in 1923 and a second unit of the hospital opened in 1927. Appropriations for and construction of other buildings in the plan never happened because of the poor farm economy of the 1920s and the great depression of the 1930s.
The U. S. entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and fought throughout the remainder of the conflict, until the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Eighty members of the College of Medicine faculty and student body were in military service by March 1918.
University of Nebraska Base Hospital No. 49 was organized in September 1917 and was mobilized in March 1918. After the war, the unit was taken out of service in January 1919, and the members of the unit sailed for the U.S. in April 1919. The unit was then transferred by train in May 1919 to Camp Dodge, Iowa, where it was demobilized on May 7, 1919.
Many College of Medicine alumni also joined Base Hospital No. 49. Among them was Dr. J. C. Waddell (fifth from right in photo), a 1910 graduate who had been practicing in Pawnee City, Nebraska before the war. Born in 1876 in Illinois, Waddell came with his family to Nebraska in 1882, settling on a farm southwest of Pawnee City. He attended rural school until he was 13 years old, and then enrolled in the Pawnee City Academy (high school). He later graduated from Tarkio College in Missouri, and then attended the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.
After the war, in 1920, Dr. Waddell joined in practice with another physician in Beatrice, Nebraska. He continued to practice medicine in Beatrice for the next 50 years.
Bibliophile and faculty member Dr. Alfred Brown was commissioned by the University of Nebraska to design a bookplate for the College of Medicine library in 1920. He completed a copper plate etching, incorporating the seal of the University at the top, a view of the front of University Hospital as it then appeared in the center, and the medical symbol of the caduceus at the bottom. Because of the fine details of the design, Dr. Brown had to do much of the etching under a microscope. The resulting bookplate received much critical praise and was still in use by the library until the late 1960s.
Alfred Jerome Brown, M.D. (1878-1960), was a graduate of Yale and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. He served in the U.S. armed forces during World War I, from 1917 to 1919, in New York and later in France. He moved to Omaha in 1919, and joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine,
where he was a professor of surgery from 1920 to 1943. He had an extensive personal collection of rare surgical books.
In 1978, the library was named for Omaha obstetrician Leon Steiner McGoogan, M.D. (1900-1993), and the library’s bookplate was updated to reflect the new name and, since 1970, the then-new library, located on the top three floors of Wittson Hall.
During her time as an emeritus professor in the mid-1970s, Bernice Hetzner, former library director (1948-1973), began collecting materials on the history of the UNMC campus as well as items concerning the history of the health professions in Omaha and across Nebraska. In conjunction with the College of Medicine’
s centennial in 1980-1981, Hetzner conducted a number of oral history interviews with leading figures from the campus’ past. The transcripts of many of these interviews, along with biographical information about the interviewees, are available online at DigitalCommons@UNMC. The original cassette tapes of these interviews have been digitized and some of the audio files have be placed online.
In the early 2000s, Robert Wigton, M.D., alumnus and faculty member, conducted more oral history interviews with leading figures at UNMC. These interviews will also have transcripts and video placed online. Dr. Wigton has digitized video and had transcripts produced of several oral history interviews conducted in the 1980s, by alumnus and former faculty member Frank Menolascino, M.D. (1930-1992). Through the financial support of Dr. Wigton, a new project began in the summer of 2016 to interview another group of individuals who have played a significant part in the recent history of UNMC. Among these will be individuals representing all of the colleges at UNMC.
The Alberts Collection contains over 150 rare and historic infant feeding devices, baby bottles, and other associated items. The infant feeders date from an ancient Persian clay feeding pot circa 100-200 B.C., to mid-to-late twentieth century glass and plastic baby bottles. The collection includes various types of feeders, such as nursing flasks, pap boats and bubby pots.
The collection was assembled by M. E. Alberts, M.D. (born 1923), during his career as a pediatrician in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Alberts is originally from Hastings, Nebraska, and is a 1948 graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. Many of the artifacts in the library’s special collections were gifts from UNMC alumni.
The two oldest items in the collection are both ancient Persian feeding pots made of clay. The older of the two is from the northern part of Iran, at a place called Mazandaran, by the Caspian Sea. It is approximately 2000 years old, from circa 100-200 B.C.
The other Persian feeding pot was excavated in the city of Ghazvin, Iran. It is approximately 1700 years old, from circa 250 A.D. According to the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania, it is “like the Parthian-Sassanid pottery.” These dates and other information about the two pots are from Dr. Alberts’ handwritten notes concerning his collection.
To see more artifacts from the Alberts collection, as well as archival materials and historic photos of the UNMC campus, visit the special collections page at DigitalCommons@UNMC.