The State of Medical Care in Dallas

Dallas in 1890 was a growing center of commerce for North Texas. The population had grown from about 400 in 1850 to about 38,000. The city was thriving, but the medical care offered in the city—and throughout most of Texas—was rudimentary. Scientific medicine was in its infancy, with the germ theory of disease still not universally accepted. Examples of the state of Dallas medicine in 1890 include:

  • Infections such as pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, and diarrhea were leading causes of death; yellow fever and dengue fever were common.  Average life expectancy for white males in the U.S. was only 42.5 years .
  • Many doctors had only basic training from small medical schools, which required only one to two years of study. Fake medical licenses were common.
  • Most medical care and most births took place at home, and surgeries were typically performed there as well, without anesthesia.
  • For those who could pay, there were a few private, for-profit hospitals operated by doctors.
  • For patients without the option of care at home or the funds to pay for a private hospital, there was a small, public “City Hospital.”