The 1920's pretty much marked the end of the horse as transportation which was the mainstay of veterinary medicine.
In addition, a severe, general, economic depression in farm prices led to the collapse of many veterinary practices, the wiping out of many veterinary schools and programs, and a huge reduction in the number of students applying to veterinary school.
On the other hand, this is the decade when our culture became willing to spend money on the care of pets and veterinarians responded by building or converting their practices to include the treatment of dogs and even some cats.
This is also the decade when pet food companies started to become successful at marketing canned dog rations to a dog loving public. The cheapest source of meat, of course, were all the hundreds of thousands of horses no longer needed with the national switch over to motor power.
Of gainfully employed persons, 27 percent were engaged in agriculture.
Field of population genetics in animal breeding founded.
Capper-Volstead Act provided legal status for agricultural cooperatives.
Honeybee Act prohibited the importation of adult honeybees.
President Coolidge appointed a nine-man President's agricultural conference.
Tennessee outlawed teaching evolution in school; Scopes trial held in Dayton, TN.
Discovered that ethylene is the agent responsible for initiating fruit coloring in oranges.
Purnell Act authorized funds for research by agricultural experiment stations on economic and social problems of agriculture.
USDA began inspection of live poultry. Most people don't think much about food quality... we take healthy food for granted in western nations... but this a critical government function ... and veterinarians play a big role in this process. I've said it several times already, but if it weren't for the high demand for veterinarians due to new government programs (to develop and administer vaccines, to conduct herd inspections for brucellosis, TB, and Cholera, and to inspect diary products, poultry, and meat) there wouldn't be any money to build and staff veterinary schools. And because the need for horse vets was rapidly declining, our profession was not have thrived as it did.
Successful light gasoline tractor invented This was the beginning of the end for working horses and mules ... as well as the veterinarians that took care of them.
Targhee breed of sheep developed.
Federal Hog Cholera eradication programs that employ or otherwise compensate thousands of veterinarians don't really get serious until 1961, but starting around 1926, many States have vaccination programs. This disease was terrible and when cholera outbreaks occurred, there were so many dead pigs, no one really knew what to safely do with all the bodies. Many were illegally sold to rendering plants to make axle grease, detergents, and soaps ... but this, of course, allowed the disease to spread.
Personal note: When I was a young student working at a mixed animal vet clinic in Indiana, the older vet working there told me that in the 1960s and 70s, the bulk of the money the practice made was paid by the government for his official role going around to swine farms inspecting, monitoring, and vaccinating every live pig for cholera. Also performing necropsies on every dead pig .... and filing out lots and lots of forms. It's not easy work, exactly, but compared to most other procedures that farm vets have to do, it sure was easy money. The United States was declared Hog Cholera Free in 1978. But U.S. Custom Inspectors, and government veterinarians remain vigilant. We must not allow this deadly germ back in our country.
Federal beef grading initiated.
Bouquets carried on Graf Zeppelin's first transatlantic flight showed the role air travel could play in transporting insect pests and plant diseases.
Capper-Ketcham Act provided extension work in agriculture and home economics for men, women, boys, and girls.
Wool Standards Act passed.
Future Farmers of America established.
Ten regional erosion experiment stations set up.
Growing plants in water, hydroponics, invented.
Mediterranean fruit fly discovered in Florida.
First airplane seeding of rice in California.
On This Page:
Veterinary Medicine: 1920 - 1950:
This was a time of incredible changes in the world order, incredible inventions and discoveries, and rapid modernization of almost everything ... including veterinary medicine. Imagine, in the same war where horses and mules were still a major part of the supply chain, there were aircraft carriers, rocket attacks on London, and sadly, atom bombs.
This page has some striking pictures from World War ll, and most veterinarians of age were involved in the war effort, either in food inspection, disease control, or directly involved in treating military dogs or beasts of burden. Including elephants, oxen, and camels.
But there were a lot of events during this period not related to war and that's what this page is mostly about. Enjoy.
Discussion about problems related to the reproductive tract such as uterine infections, False Pregnancy, lack of milk, Infection of the mammary glands and trouble giving birth. But also fun stuff like new born care. Aso about undescended testicles.
The sign in the picture above says " Special Bargain This Place For Sale"
(Notice the sparse, almost dead pasture)
Hit by both the depression and the Dust Bowl, many farms are sold or forclosed. Starvation, early slaughter, & death due to disease are the norm for millions of farm animals ... and quite a few pleasure horses and pets as well. But farmers have no feed for their livestock, no markets, and no money and since veterinarians are dependent on a properous farm economy, vets in private practice barely survive. Competition for the veterinary jobs available at race tracks and working for the government is brutal.
Skeletal-Muscular Problems Arthritis, Fractures, ACL, Ligament Injuries, Disc Disease, Pannus, and many other problems of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
The State of Animal Health in the U.S. before the 1950's
from O.H.V. Stalheim’s book The Winning of Animal Health
In 1884, when the Bureau of Animal Industry was created by Congress, there was no indication that the United States would one day be a leader in animal health, veterinary medicine, or the production of wholesome food.
What few veterinarians who were available had little in the way of effective treatments nor people willing to pay for treatment. They could do some dentistry and treat wounds, and effectively treat some of the non-infectious diseases and conditions, but for many problems they were helpless. They couldn’t even diagnose infectious diseases let alone cure them.
Colic, for example, killed 12,500 horses a year on the manure-clogged streets of New York.
Equine flu among horses in the big cities paralyzed transportation.
Serious disease outbreaks among food animals up to 1884 included hog chloera, bovine abortion, bovine pleuropneumonia, Texas Fever, anthrax, mad itch, swamp fever, foot and mouth disease, equine influenze, fowl chloera, and ergotism. These diseases were causing serious hardships and problems. Kansas and other states enacted strict quarantine laws that were enforced by cowboys with shotguns. It was because of the huge economic and emotional devastation that these diseases caused that the bureau was created.
No one really knew what caused theses diseases. Knowledgeable veterinarians were almost non existent, and partly because of numerous quacks selling various useless nostrums and remedies, there was very little respect for “horse doctors”
Despite being totally dependent on horses and mules, the U.S. Army did not commission veterinarians until 1916.
Thanks to the efforts of the new Bureau of Animal Industry, several major diseases were eradicated, reduced or controlled...usually based on the successful European fight against Rinderpest by killing all sick and contact cattle. Early successes included the eradication of bovine pleuropneumonia and the control of Hog Cholera and Texas Fever. Hog Cholera killed as many as 50 percent of all hogs during outbreaks in the 1800's!
But despite these early successes, the state of animal health and care prior to World War 2 was awful:
Huge numbers of animals died from infections, untreated diseases, abuse, malnutrition, parasitism, toxins, injuries, and starvation.
Disease constantly threatened farm families with disaster.
For many families, the death of a milk cow was a calamity.
As the west opened up after the Civil War, and farming methods changed from small, family operations to larger operations, with animals being exchanged, shipped, and transported without thought of disease control, tuberculosis and bovine abortion (brucellosis) became rampant.
In 1922, 4 percent of all cattle had tuberculosis. In 1936, over 1 million cattle tested positive for tuberculosis or brucellosis.
Until an effective vaccine was developed in 1916, blackleg killed 10% of all calves born each year. Early vaccines developed for other disease turned out to be mostly useless of harmful.
Leptosporosis, a major cause of kidney disease to this day, first appeared in dogs, then cattle, then swine. By 1955, the loss was an estimated $100 million annually.
Other diseases causing major losses included pinkeye, rabies, anthrax, pox, Johne’s disease, milk fever, trichomoniasis, ketosis, leukosis, bovine viral diarrhea, vesicular stomatitis, dysentery, and catarrhal fever.
In 1918, millions of people died of flu, killing many more people than World War One, and apparently, this human flu mutated to become swine influenza killing millions of pigs in the midwest.
In the 1930's, erysipelas became common in swine.
Horses suffered from strangles, severe parasites whenever crowded, encephalitis, dourine, and glanders.
But just listing all these terrible diseases doesn’t begin to describe the poor plight of many of the animals on farms or working in cities.
During the 1920's, first the price of wheat and then most agricultural products crashed by as much as 50% causing a severe agricultural depression. Many farmers could barely survive and those that did were rewarded next with not a recovery, but THE GREAT DEPRESSION and for much of the country: THE DROUGHT! Farmers couldn’t afford to feed their animals.
The U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA) started emergency programs to reduce the number of swine and cattle: veterinarians no longer able to survive in private practice went to work for these programs going from farm to farm inspecting, appraising, and killing animals! Those too weak to be transported to a slaughterhouse were killed on the farm; the rest were processed with the meat given to people “on relief”. Cattle owners received $16 a head.
Starving animals were common on the western ranges; one water hole was surrounded by 10.000 dead cattle. The bones were gathered and made into fertilizer.
During the Depression, an average MidWest farmer kept about 15 cows, raising them for cream to sell in town and hoping to feed out the calves on the skimmed milk and on pasture as they got older. But confined in winter to a pen in the barn, the calves developed rickets, ringworm, diarrhea, and pneumonia and many didn’t survive.
Each year, most midwest farmers raised 50-100 pigs, but if raised on concrete, they became anemic, and if raised on dirt became infested with parasites and “necro”...a filth borne disease. Most pigs were constantly itching due to mange.
Sheep and chickens suffered horribly from parasites.
Horses were often overworked and underfed. Many had terrible collar sores on their shoulders and necks. And so many horses died of sleeping sickness in the 1930's and 1940's that lame or crippled horses were forced to work. As soon as farmers had enough money, they bought tractors and thousands and thousands of unwanted horses were sold to the glue factories and to the canned dog food companies that started to pop up in the 1920's.
Only the energetic intervention of the New Deal relief programs sustained farmers and their animals. There were very few business opportunities for vets wanting to do private practice. Luckily for the profession, there were lots of government jobs available fighting the overwhelming number of disease problems devastating our livestock industry. It took a while, but things were going to get much better.
Developed and tested soilless media for plant growth; vermiculite discovered.
Of gainfully employed persons, 18 percent were engaged in agriculture.
CHIEF, the last living cavalry horse still carried on government rolls, was foaled in 1932 and purchased by the Army in 1940 at Ft.Robinson, Neb. In December of 1949 he was placed in semi-retirement and was fully retired at Ft. Riley, Kan., in 1958.
Mildew- and rot-proof fabrics and bandages developed.
First simple daily nutrition guide published.
Beltsville small white turkey developed; ancestor of today's commercial turkeys.
United States entered World War II.
Deep-vat fermentation developed in Peoria, IL, allowing mass-production of penicillin.
Demonstrated that methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum biocide and controls nematodes.
First nuclear reactor built.
Discovered chemical structure of DDT; military began to use chemical to protect against typhus.
Induced ovulation in domestic fowl.
Dourine of horses eradicated in United States and other many other countries. Dourine is a protozoa parasites that makes horses, mules, zebras, and donkeys very weak and often dead.
Palatable dehydrated eggs developed. (Oh yeah?)
Developed method for cleaning Navy airplane engines by blasting them with ground corn cobs. Isn't that interesting?
Research to create fruit essences began; led to development of concentrated frozen apple and grape juices.
Texas cattle fever eradicated. Understand what this means; Programs to eradicate livestock diseases like Dourine, Hoof and Mouth, Texas fever, Brucellosis, Tuberculosis, Hog Cholera, and other major diseases were huge undertakings.
These programs employed thousands of veterinarians, agricultural scientists, and biologists all sponsored by Western governments, universities, pharmaceutical companies, and other companies.
There was often cooperation among the medical and scientific community in different nations ... and a good thing as germs don't seem to respect national borders.
Similar projects among the developed nations were going on at the same time trying to eradicate major human diseases. Polio, tuberculosis, and small pox to name a few.
Guess what? Scientific research into human diseases and their treatments or eradication... and especially in the development of vaccines ... usually involve lab animal testing and that means veterinarians playing their role in 2 ways; greatly aiding in medical progress while at the same time helping to ensure that lab animal suffering is minimized.
Tuskegee University opens veterinary program for Negro Americans
Organic Act provided for control and eradication of certain animal and plant pests and diseases.
Antibiotic streptomycin isolated from soil microorganisms.
Complement fixation test to diagnose anaplasmosis in cattle developed.
World War II ended.
Food and Agriculture Organization formed by the United Nations.
Developed a process for preparing purified grade of oleic acid from inedible animal fats, used in cosmetics and as lubricants in textile mills.
Bankhead-Flanagan Act provided for expansion of county extension work.
Foot & Mouth disease breaks out in Mexico threatening the US markets leading to a joint country eradication program. This is an interesting story...click here for more.
Research and Marketing Act passed.
Atomic Bomb tests on Bikini Atoll French designer takes marketing advantage of the huge publicity surrounding the atomic tests by naming his new 2 piece lady's swim suit "The Bikini". The Vatican pronounces the wearing of this revealing suit a sin so of course, sales really take off.
Avian leukosis virus first isolated.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act passed; replaced Insecticide Act of 1910.
First U.S. case of scrapie diagnosed in sheep.
Organophosphate pesticides developed.
Congress authorized cooperative project with Mexico to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease there.
Discovered antibiotic polymyxin.
Marfed soft white spring wheat released, the major spring wheat grown in Washington until semidwarf wheats were introduced.
Cortisone found to relieve rheumatoid arthritis.
Screened 6,600 plant species for useful chemicals. Found Mexican yam to have highest yield of compound diosgenin, an ingredient that can be used to produce cortisone.
Synthesized esters determined to be similar to the active constituents of pyrethrum; one of these synthetic insecticides, allerthrin, used in aerosol pesticide bombs.
Radiocarbon dating invented.
Researchers invent a new diagnostic test for brucellosis, commonly known as Bang's disease, in dairy cows. By 1959, brucellosis is virtually eliminated.
Hundreds of thousands of Horses and Mules continue to play a major role in military conflicts as late in the century as World War ll in the West and for another decade in post war chaos in Asia, India, and Africa*. The picture above shows German Troops in the 1940's supplying an artillery unit. The picture below is of Russian Troops bogged down in Spring mud transporting what I think is a howitzer. All countries in this terrible conflict purchased or confiscated thousands of draft animals from farmers and business' and had veterinary corps that vaccinated, dewormed, and otherwise prepared these poor animals for combat. The good news for most veterinarians and their assistants was that by World War ll, with the exception of the brave but suicidal Polish Calvary that charged Hitler's tanks, the vast majority of military horses and mules were no longer serving in the front lines for obvious reasons.
*US Tax payers would later (1980's) spend millions to send mules from Tennessee to Muslim Freedom Fighters in Pakistan to be used for transporting supplies across the mountains into Afghanistan. (to harass the occupying Soviets.) You can guess the fate of these very over priced mules; they were used as intended ... for maybe 1 trip through the mountains but somehow quickly vanished into private hands or eaten. (reference; "Charlie Wilson's War)
World War ll Soviet Horses somewhere on the Eastern Front. This vast country, without many roads, extreme weather, and a largely still illiterate peasantry, and still using horses for transport (as was everyone else), would be the first nation to send a spaceship into outer space.... about 15 years after this picture was taken.
Unloading mules in Naples for service in Patton's Army
Of gainfully employed persons, 21.5 percent were engaged in agriculture.
Strain 19 of Brucella abortus developed; formed basis of brucellosis vaccine.
Controlled citrus black fly in Cuba using biological control.
FDA is formed. Although some of the worse abuses were controlled by the Clean Food Act of 1906, up until the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was set up and running , all manner of useless, and sometimes harmful, or fraudulent treatments in both human and animal medicine were common. (It could easily be argued that like labor unions, the FDA was badly needed at the time, but this bureaucracy has now grown so large, convoluted, and powerful it may be doing more harm than good)
First electron microscope built.
Hoover Dam Project
War is brewing in much of the world. Japan invades much of Asia with unbelievable atrocities committed in Shanghai and Manchuria. Mussolini, Prime Minister in 1931 will soon declare himself dictator and invade Ethiopia.
The height of world wide depression. The picture above is a food line for children in Australia.
In the United States the depression was made much, much worse by a severe drought (The dust bowl) with one farm after another going under. The affects of this included the death of hundreds of thousands of farm animals and the bankruptcy of all the banks, farm supply companies, feed companies, fertilizer companies, and everyone else whose business depended on a prosperous farm community. Including veterinarians.
Tennessee Valley Authority Act passed.
Washington State College graduates its first female veterinarian, Catherine Elizabeth Roberts. She goes on to be the first licensed female veterinarian in California and is among only twelve in the nation at the time. My comments about women in Veterinary Medicine
DUST BOWL: Worst drought in U.S. history took place in the Great Plains and covered over 75 percent of the country. Lots of farms go into foreclosure and no one has any business or money for veterinarians.
Taylor Grazing Act gave U.S. Department of the Interior power to regulate grazing on public lands in the West.
Jones-Connally Act authorized appropriations for research to eliminate disease from beef and dairy herds. Another program hiring many veterinarians
Glanders of horses eradicated.
USDA and Iowa State Experiment Station imported Danish Landrace hogs. You might not know this, but the beautiful, remarkable but tiny nation of Denmark was ... and remains... one of the world's largest exporter of hams, bacon, sausages, and other pork products. Their swine industry has always been among the most modern, progressive, and innovative.
Line 1 Hereford program started; one of the longest continuing beef cattle line-breeding programs in the U.S.
The establishment of the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee, Alabama. The first (and only in the US) veterinary school established for primarily black students.
Sulfa drugs discovered.
Otto Stader, VMD
While in small animal practice, he treated an expensive Chow dog with a fractured femur, which he attempted to treat by means of plaster immobilization. The dog chewed off two or three casts and developed serious soft tissue wounds in the process. This lead him to suspect that there were better ways to treat fractures. From his experience with his son‘s bicycle spokes, he developed the external fixator which bears his name today. He manufactured the original Stader splint in the basement of the Geneva Animal Hospital, on a lathe.
He had learned from his father who had been a tool and dye maker in Germany. He treated approximately 200 dogs successfully with this external fixator. It was used primarily for repairing femurs, tibias, fibulas, radii, and ulnae. It became apparent to Dr. Stader and his family that he should move East to enable him to further his interests in veterinary medicine and especially the external fixator. In 1936, the family moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia.
He built the Ardmore Animal Hospital on Lancaster Avenue, converting it from a pre-existing home. The animal hospital was state-of the- art, including air conditioning; a large surgery and X-ray, two examination rooms, a pharmacy and four wards of 22 tiled kennels.
Methods for genetic evaluation of beef cattle pioneered.
Two farmers out of every five were tenant farmers.
Atlanta's city directory lists 6 veterinarians
Initiated National Poultry Improvement Plan to improve production and marketing qualities of chickens and turkeys through performance testing.
Developed concept of vegetative waterways, which led to more than 500,000 miles of waterways that channel runoff and prevent severe gully erosion.
Spanish Civil War begins ... a sort of prelude to World War ll
First soil conservation district in the U.S. organized.
Published first electron micrographs of bacteria.
In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the year's number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn't Pope Pius Xl, nor was it Lou Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn't even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged race horse named Seabiscuit... (from the preface of the book)
Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act passed. Lots of veterinarians employed
Bacillus thuringiensis first sold as insecticide.
Insect-sterilization technique for mating disruption proposed.
First artificial breeding cooperative organized for dairy cattle.
Reported filarial dermatosis of sheep; developed treatment.
First successful distemper vaccine produced by the Fromm brothers. Distemper is very deadly to all canines but the early vaccines were produced to protect young foxes being raised for the fur trade. It would be another 8 years before the vaccine was made available to pet dogs.
World War II began in Europe. First with the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and then the invasion of Poland by both Nazi Germany AND the Soviet Union.
The incredibly brave Polish Army (pictured above) was still dominated by horse power and calvary.... no match for the tanks and the mechanized army of the Third Reich. An interesting aside... while the blitzkrieg was mechanized, much of the supply line behind the German advance was still horse and mule driven. Almost all of the men and horses in the picture above would soon be massacred trying to defend their country.
1939 Never forget; The rounding up and mass murder of civilians by Germans in the West and Soviets in the East was common in Poland. This picture is from December 18, 1939 in the Polish city of Bochnia where 56 people were executed. The 1939 picture below is from Gdansk. I visited this site as well as similar memorial walls in Sweden
1936 Kansas State Veterinary School anatomy class
Animal Ambulance of Veterinary Company # 13th Mountain Medical Battalion
Herr Hitler is posing with a smile, but Jesse Owens winning 4 gold medals in the 1936 Olympics proved that the Aryan Race wasn't all that superior, after all.
The first string bikini designed by Louis Reard on July 5, 1946
Cardiology Heart disease in Cats, Cardiac Hypertrophy, Valvular disease, Cardiac Insufficiency, Congestive Heart Failure, Heartworm Disease, and a little history about the milestones in treating heart disease
Cats: general information page and directory of diseases and problems specific to cats including vaccine recommendations, leukemia, feline viral infections, feline upper respiratory disease and cats that just aren't feeling well.