Saint Paul, MN in 1908 — Dentists, Dentists and more Dentists!

Robert Street in Saint Paul, circa 1908 -- Shorpy.com -- Click to view larger size

As a big fan of Shorpy’s historical photography site, I absolutely love it when I come across a Minnesota-centric photo like the one above of Robert Street in downtown St. Paul in 1908.

When describing this photo, Shorpy pointed the “Starbucks-like” number of dentists on seemingly every street corner. Without a doubt dentistry was a booming business, what with the probability of incredible tooth decay still rampant at the time and fluoride in our drinking water not appearing until the 1940s. If you view the larger image (there is even a larger one here at Shorpys) you can see all of the offices. But it’s fun to look at the people and how they’re dressed, the street cars and the automobiles. Guess we’ve come a ways, heh?

At the Minnesota Historical Society there is also a page of photos of a pioneering woman dentist named Dr. Olga Lentz. Since I don’t often focus on Minnesota women’s history, I was delighted to come across these photos of Dr. Lentz which then led me to this page at the Society on women’s suffrage. Hopefully she was a bit gentler on tooth extraction than history shows.

L: Dr. Olga A. Lentz in her dental office -- R: Dr. Lentz working on a patient (courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)

Friends and family often ask me why I care about old photos, shows like Antiques Roadshow, and investing so much of my time scanning and retouching old family photographs and documents.

It’s because history matters. It sets context. If you don’t know how we got to where we are today, it’s less likely you’ll be competent when it comes to mapping out and directing your own future. I’ve come to believe strongly that not understanding the past means we cannot truly and intuitively grasp how to invent, innovate, improve, and accelerate our work, education and competitiveness.

Besides, as I get older the past becomes sweeter, more interesting, and directly taps in to my extremely strong need to constantly be learning. I’ll be you didn’t think all of THAT would come out of stumbling across an old photo of downtown St. Paul, heh?

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1 Comment

  1. Henry Golfiield on July 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Notice the people in the streets. Not so today. Developers, in the name of progress have removed the fun factor from downtown.



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