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Kansas Goes to Hollywood - October 30, 2015

These bricks were the brainchild of Dr. Samuel Crumbine of Dodge City, Kan., who served as Secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health from 1904 to 1924. Crumbine was concerned with the spread of disease and fought for sanitary conditions. The Capital City Vitrified Brick and Paving Company of Topeka was apparently the first company to create the "Don't Spit" bricks. The Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Paving Company and others followed. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society/

Q: The character of Doc Adams on the long-running TV series Gunsmoke was played by Milburn Stone, who grew up in Burrton, Kan. (near Hutchinson).  Doc Adams was not only played by a Kansan, the character he played is said to be based on a real-life doctor from Dodge City who became the state health director in Kansas. Can you name this pioneer of public health who became a national figure in the fight against infectious disease?


A: Dr. Samuel Crumbine
Dr. Samuel Crumbine was a country doctor from Ford County, Kan., who became the state health director and a national crusader for public health at the turn of the last century. According to the Kansas Historical Society, Crumbine was appointed to the State Board of Health in 1899 and within a few years became its executive officer. By 1905, he introduced the flyswatter to the world and encouraged the public to “swat the fly” to combat the spread of disease.

Crumbine initiated vigorous campaigns in Kansas that soon spread nationwide. The spread of tuberculosis was the target for two of his campaigns. One was to replace the "common" drinking cups on railroads and in public buildings with paper cups. He also convinced brick manufacturers to imprint the slogan “Don’t spit on the sidewalk” on to bricks. These campaigns helped him gain an international reputation in the field of public health.

Crumbine wrote Frontier Doctor: The Autobiography of a Pioneer on the Frontier of Public Health, which described his medical practice on the frontier in Dodge City. The character of Doc Adams on the TV series Gunsmoke is said to be based on Crumbine, who died in 1954. A year later, the Crumbine Award was established in his memory and is awarded each year by the food and drug industry to encourage public health.

Fun Fact: Crumbine also served as dean of the University of Kansas Medical School.

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