Dentists I Have Not Known: Dr. Charles William Hartwig

This cabinet card photograph is one of a deliciously obscure collection of dentists’ and physicians’ portraits from Baltimore that recently began appearing on an internet auction site.

Son of German immigrant grocers Ann and George D. Hartwig, Charles William Hartwig (b. 18 December 1866, Md.) was a Baltimore physician who also studied the newly-emerging profession of dentistry. He received his DDS degree from the University of Maryland’s Department of Dental Surgery in March 1886–the date marked on the back of the photograph.

He obtained his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1889. Among his multiple appointments:  Resident Physician at Bayview Hospital, Resident Physician and Assistant Surgeon at the Presbyterian Ear, Nose and Throat Charity Hospital, and demonstrator of anatomy, anesthestics,  and dentistry at the University of Maryland. His private practice  was at 111 W. Saratoga Street. (The Medical Annals of Maryland, E. F. Cordell, 1903, p. 432)

Hartwig seems to have been a progressive physician. In 1895, a Baltimore American article speaks of his successful treatment of a diphtheria case with an anti-toxin, a revolutionary treatment developed by Emil von Behring.

In 1896, Dr. Hartwig published an article on the surgical treatment of ear infections entitled “Aural Catarrh.” Drawing on experience from his practice at the Presbyterian Hospital, he urged that hearing loss could  be avoided if aural swelling and pain were  relieved immediately by opening, draining and cleaning the ear drum–apparently not a widespread practice at the time (Maryland Medical Journal, v. 33, pp. 367-368).

Passport applications and a mention in a medical journal indicate that Hartwig traveled to Europe at least once, in 1914, at the same time as another, much more prominent physician, the learned and charismatic medical professor Dr. Ridgley Brown Warfield (1864-1920), scion of an old Howard County family who had graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1884 and taught there.

Young Hartwig sat for his portrait at the studio of John Philip  Blessing (1835-1911) and Franklin Kuhn, located ca. 1882-1886, Kelbaugh’s Directory of Maryland Photographers tells us, at 46 N. Charles Street. Hartwig chose a vignetted bust style for his portrait, as had Dr. John C. Uhler. Hartwig likely encountered Uhler as a student at the University of Maryland, where Dr. Uhler was an instructor in the Dental Department.

Uhler, Hartwig, and the others must have met one another during their schooling in Baltimore and in the practice of their professions. Perhaps they exchanged portraits upon graduation. But who collected these Baltimore portraits of dentists and doctors of the 1880s and kept them so carefully all these years? Not that I’m complaining.

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