Feeling No Pain

Sometimes, not often, a read through a Wikipedia entry is priceless. I could rewrite this story to connect better with the Warburton Building that once stood at 11th and Broadway but I think its enough just to post a picture and note that a dental parlor bearing the name “Painless Parker” occupied the second floor above a pharmacy. Behind that name lies quite a story and here it is verbatim from Wikipedia

Edgar R.R. “Painless” Parker (1872–1952) was a flamboyant street dentist described as “a menace to the dignity of the profession” by the American Dental Association and yet “much of what he championed – patient advocacy, increased access to dental care and advertising – has come to pass in the US.” He attended Philadelphia Dental College which would become Temple University dental school. After 6 weeks without a single patient, Parker decided to advertise. He hired one of P.T. Barnam’s ex-managers to help him take his practice on the road. He created the Parker Dental Circus, a traveling medicine show with his dental chair on a horse drawn wagon while a band played. The band attracted large crowds and hid the moans and cries of patients who were given whiskey or a cocaine solution that he called “hydrocaine” to numb the pain. He charged 50 cents for each extraction and promised that if it hurt, he’d pay the patient $5.
At one point he claimed to have pulled 357 teeth in one day, which he strung on a necklace.
He legally changed his first name to “Painless”, when he was accused of breaking a false advertisement law by claiming that his dentistry was truly painless.
When business thrived, he hired assistants and established a chain of dentistry business. In the end, Parker ran 28 West Coast dental offices, employing over 70 dentists, and grossing $3 million per year.


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This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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