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Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine

A Kansas Portrait

(From Kansas State Historical Society)

[photo: Dr. Samuel
J. Crumbine, courtesy Kansas State Historical Soc.]

Dr. Samuel Jay Crumbine of Dodge City was one of the nation's leaders in the field of public health. He became secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health in 1904 and served for approximately 20 years. His public health campaigns were directed at practices and conditions that led to the spread of communicable diseases. His campaign against houseflies urged screening windows and doors and used the slogan, "Swat the Fly."

Other targets of his campaigns were the common drinking cup or dipper and the exposed roller towel, often used on railroad trains and in other public areas. His success in this area was illustrated by the adoption of disposable paper cups and towels. Crumbine also warned against misleading labels on food and drugs.

One of Dr. Crumbine's best know campaigns was associated with the slogan Don't Spit On Sidewalk. He was concerned that the habit spread disease. He was so convincing that brick manufacturers produced bricks with this slogan imprinted on them. These bricks can occasionally be found in the few brick sidewalks still remaining in the state. These activities brought Crumbine an international reputation in the field of public health.

Dr. Samuel Crumbine also tried his hand at writing, authoring the Frontier Doctor which described his medical practice on the Kansas frontier in Dodge City.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1862, Samuel J. Crumbine came to Ford County, Kansas, in the 1880s to practice medicine. Beginning in 1904, he served as secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health until 1924.

Crumbine was concerned about the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases and campaigned for their prevention. He became particularly concerned after observing tuberculosis patients spitting on the floor of a train. Crumbine was especially moved to act after watching one of these patients take a drink from a public drinking cup; he then observed a mother giving her child a drink from the same cup without first rinsing it.

Crumbine's public health crusade argued for pure food and drugs, elimination of houseflies and rats, water and sewage sanitary control, and the prevention of tuberculosis. He succeeded in abolishing the common drinking cup, the common or "roller" towel, and spitting in public places. Crumbine promoted these campaigns with simple and easy to remember slogans, such as "Bat the Rat," and "Swat the Fly."

[photograph: Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine famous Don't Spit On Side Walk
brick, courtesy Kansas State Historical Soc.

But as he related in Frontier Doctor, one of the slogans came to have a "disdainful connotation: "It was "Don't Spit on Sidewalk." Many prefer the word expectoration to spit. But the shorter word drove the idea home and a brickmaker in Topeka helped it along by having the phrase engraved on bricks to be laid in the sidewalk.

Another source suggests the brick manufacturer (probably the Capital City Vitrified Brick and Paving Company) did not really want to stamp the bricks as Crumbine suggested, but agreed to stamp every fourth brick with the slogan in order to get the doctor to leave them alone. Other brick makers in the state apparently picked up the slogan, including the Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Tile Company.

After a long and useful career, Samuel Crumbine died in New York in 1954.

Dr. Samuel Crumbine: Pushing the frontier of public health, by Allen Greiner, MD, KU School of Medicine

Dr. Samuel Crumbine Papers Archive of Samuel Jay Crumbine related documents

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