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The Difference Between the Years of MSMA Existence

and the Number of Its Presidents

On May 18, 1850, a resolution was passed at the Medical Society of Missouri at St. Louis (now the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society) to form a committee to unite the medical profession of the State of Missouri.  The St. Louis President, R. P. Simmons,* appointed a committee to act on the resolution.

About six months later, on November 4, 1850, a large delegation of physicians met at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.  George Penn, St. Louis County, was selected as MSMA’s first President, albeit a temporary one. From that meeting, officers for the ensuing year (1851) were elected.  F. W. G. Thomas, Boonville, was elected MSMA’s first full-term President.

Historical records do not give a date for MSMA’s first Annual Meeting held in Boonville in 1851, but there were Annual Meetings held from 1852-1856 around the state including St. Louis and Lexington.  Most Annual Meetings were held in churches and county court houses. From MSMA’s inception to the stirrings of the War Between the States, the Association had seven Presidents (including its first temporary one, George Penn).

From 1857-1866, however, there are no records available for these years due to the Civil War.

It is now 1867. That year, after the Civil War, MSMA had two Presidents. On October 26, a committee met in St. Louis for the purpose of reorganizing the Association. Then, on December 10, a convention of physicians assembled in Philharmonic Hall in St. Louis. A Committee on Permanent Organization was appointed and elected officers, which included a temporary President, G. A. Williams, Boonville, for the reorganization. At the adjournment of that December meeting, those new officers, led by newly elected G.A. Williams, then elected J. Woods, Kansas City, to serve as the next President, which he did for about six months. Then on April 21, 1868, Walter B. Morris, Bridgeton, was installed as the tenth President at the House of Delegates at the Polytechnic Hall in St. Louis.

How do we know this? Discovered in MSMA’s archives are the pen and ink, hand-written minutes in a lined, bound journal from 34 Annual Meetings dating 1867-1900.  Thus, we know that at this point of reorganization in 1867 that MSMA begins numbering its Annual Meetings, usually marked with several morning, afternoon, and evening sessions.

While this bound volume of minutes begins with the minutes from the 1867 Annual Meeting (the First Annual Meeting following the Civil War), it is the Annual Meeting from 1868 that is labeled the “Second Annual Meeting” and this labeling continues through the Eleventh Annual Meeting which would have been 1877. 

The following year at the 1878 Annual Meeting, in the bound volume of hand-written minutes the number of the meeting jumps to the Seventeenth Annual Meeting.  Why did this Annual Meeting add six years to its total? In the minutes of the 1878 Annual Meeting, it is moved that MSMA back-label the Annual Meetings beginning with 1851 (the year of the First Annual Meeting) as the official First Annual Meeting to continue through the 1856 Annual Meeting.  Thus, with the break of the Civil War, the 1867 Annual Meeting is actually the official Sixth Annual Meeting.

Also in this bound volume is a hand-written MSMA Constitution penned during the Fifth Annual Meeting dated April 25, 1871, (interestingly the same year and time that the current Governor's Mansion is being built, as well as the row houses where MSMA is now headquartered today). 

Several mentions in the history of the minutes make note that MSMA Annual Meetings were often held in Jefferson City and at the Capitol, including the 1901 meeting which was held in the Chamber of the House of Representatives and where Governor Alexander Monroe Dockery, a physician, addressed the group.

However, the meeting place for the 1911 meeting, scheduled for May of that year, was nullified by the fire caused by a lightning strike on February 5 that destroyed the state capitol building in Jefferson City.  The meeting place for that year was thus moved to Kansas City.

Moving forward, plans had been completed for the 1945 Annual Meeting to be held in St. Louis. However, this was cancelled in compliance with the rulings of the Office of Defense Transportation due to World War II.  The MSMA Council, activating Article IX of MSMA’s Constitution, conducted the business of the House of Delegates on March 3, and again on April 21-22, 1945. It was decided that the present officers should serve until the House of Delegates could elect new officers. A. S. Bristow (who had been elected President-Elect in 1944) ascended directly to the high office as the eighty-seventh President.

By the 1946 House of Delegates, the business of medicine returned to normalcy, and Howard B. Goodrich, Hannibal, continued an unbroken line of MSMA Presidents to this day.

In April of 2020, MSMA once again called upon Article IX for the Council to conduct the transfer of power during the COVID-19 pandemic and executed the shortest meeting to date – 17 minutes, via conference call – to install George Hruza, St. Louis, as MSMA’s one hundred and sixty-second President. While there was no organized House of Delegates, resolutions which had already been turned in for discussion, were placed on MSMA's website and online comment was accepted throughout the Spring until the July Council meeting, where the leaders discussed and assigned the resolutions to pertinent committees and commissions.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2021 MSMA held a virtual House of Delegates, and installed Alexander Hover, Springfield.  Using the same format from the year before, resolutions were loaded onto the website, and online comment was allowed, with discussion and installation of officers held virtually. 

In April 2022, the MSMA House of Delegates met in St. Louis for the first time in two years in person, and installed George Hubbell, Lake Ozark, as its one hundred and sixty-fourth President.  A regular House of Delegates ensued.

At the end of 2023 Annual Convention, because of the service of George Penn (as the first temporary President) and J. Wood (who served after the Civil War until activities normalized) the number of MSMA’s Presidents stands at 165.

In April 2024, MSMA will celebrate its one hundred and seventy-fourth year of existence. Between the number of years MSMA has served the House of Medicine in Missouri and the number of Presidents who have served their state and country and House of Delegates, the difference stands at 8.

Epilogue: The year was 1950. Per records and minutes published in Missouri Medicine, Volume 47, Number 7, July 1950, the Ninety-Second Annual Session of the House of Delegates of the MSMA was called to order March 26 in St. Louis.  F.T. H’Doubler, Springfield, Speaker, presiding, remarked: “This year is the hundredth year of our organization. It is true that our present session on the other hand is not the 100th session because there have been lapses in our annual meetings due to wars.  Nevertheless, the fact stands that this year the MSMA is 100 years old.”

*All names are physicians.

Researched by Lizabeth R.S. Fleenor, BJ, MA, MSMA Director of Communications/Managing Editor – Missouri Medicine

Source: Journal of Minutes of Annual Meetings of the MSMA 1867-1900; History of the Missouri State Medical Association © 1950, 2000 


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