Adams County Medical Society's centennial celebration was a spectacle

Miss Adams County Queen Marilyn Starnes and her court ride on one of two Adams County Medical Society floats during the society's centennial celebration on Oct. 14, 1950. | Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County
Posted: Dec. 1, 2019 12:30 am Updated: Dec. 1, 2019 12:51 am

In October 1950, the Adams County Medical Society celebrated its 100th anniversary. The organization and the Woman's Auxiliary to the society planned a four-day celebration from Saturday, Oct. 14 to Tuesday, Oct. 17. The program was called "A Century of Health Progress (1850-1950)."

A Centennial Committee was established with Drs. Harold Swanberg as chairman, M.E. Bitter as vice chairman and Newton Depuy as secretary. They set up 13 committees to manage the events planned for the celebration. They enlisted community members, fellow doctors, doctors' wives and families, and other health care workers to fill out the committees such as finance, publicity, program, exhibits, parade, pageant, queen contest and banquet.

The celebration kicked off with a centennial parade at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 at 12th and Maine streets, continuing west to Fourth Street, then east on Hampshire to Eighth Street, where the units disbanded, but the floats returned to Washington Park for a display lasting the entire day. There were nine bands and 25 floats.

The bands consisted of those from area high schools, Quincy College and the American Legion Drum Corps. There also was a group of horses and riders called the Cavaliers. They and their horses were dressed for the role and mostly came from around Mendon.

The floats were more diverse and sponsored by commercial organizations, area associations and health care facilities. Some of the commercial entries were Brown Drug Co., which reproduced the painting "The Doctor," with live figures; Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co.; Prairie Farms of Western Illinois; Berry's Ajax Hatchery; and the T.H. Bueter Baking Co. The Baking Co.'s float was a loaf of bread and a large toaster labeled "A Toast to Our Doctors."

A few of the associations were the Quincy Florists, whose float featured 300 chrysanthemums; the Retail Merchants; Adams County Bar; Quincy Automobile Dealers; and the National Hair Dressers and Cosmetologists Association, Unit No. 9.

Health care organizations that participated included St. Mary Hospital, Blessing Hospital, Quincy Visiting Nurses, Blue Cross Plan for Hospital Care and the Adams County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Both of the hospitals presented floats representing their many services and the people providing them.

The Adams County Medical Society built two floats, one for the centennial celebration and one for the queen and her court. The queen's float was in pink and white and featured Marilyn Starnes, Miss Adams County. Later that Saturday evening, Starnes was crowned as queen of the centennial by Dr. Warren Pearce, who was president of the Adams County Medical Society. He said Quincy's centennial celebration was the first of its kind in America.

Also on Saturday, Oct. 14, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson came to Quincy to open the "Century of Progress" celebration. After appearing in the parade, he addressed the audience in Q Stadium at 18th and Sycamore streets saying, "…the medical profession as well as the people of Quincy and Adams County have consistently been among the leaders of health," according to the Oct. 15, 1950, issue of The Quincy Herald-Whig. He then opened the Hall of Science, which was housed in a tent at the north end of the stadium. It stayed open through Oct. 17.

The Hall of Science was described as a spacious place, 60 by 350 feet. Housed on the south side of the hall were five medical services, chest X-ray, dental X-ray, blood pressure screenings, hearing tests and vision tests. The program of events emphasized the tests stating, "there is no admission charge and all the medical services are free."

At the back of the hall a small theater showed educational health films continuously.

The north side of the Hall of Science held the technical exhibitors described in the program as "interesting exhibits of industrial and agricultural progress by leading companies in the tri-state area."

There were 30 exhibitors listed, including Kroger Grocery and Baking Co., Halbach-Schroeder department store, Sears Roebuck & Co., Seward Motor Co. and the Hotel Lincoln-Douglas.

Clubs such as the Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary had booths explaining their services to the community.

Interestingly, Pepsi was following the health premise of the entire hall by stating in the program, "Pepsi-Cola drink is of the highest purity and possesses more quick food energy value, ounce for ounce, than any other nationally known cola drink."

Another highlight of the celebration was "The Flame of Life" pageant presented Oct. 14, 15 and 16 at Q Stadium each evening. It was staged and directed by Harvey Work and Mabel Ahern and called a John B. Rogers Production. The pageant consisted of an introduction, "Flame," a prologue, 18 episodes and an epilogue.

The first episode was the medicine man, followed by the first settlers to Adams County and their hardships. The third episode returned to Europe and Florence Nightingale. The fourth episode presented cholera, and the fifth the origins of the medical society due to those epidemics. The sixth episode was early schooling, the seventh the family doctor and the eighth the Civil War. The ninth episode mentioned the Illinois State Medical Society meeting in Quincy with the 10th, 11th and 12fth episodes discussing the famous scientists of the late 19th century. The 13th episode entered the 1890s and the 14th, Quincy's famous doctor, Edmund B. Montgomery, the oldest practicing physician in the country. Penicillin was the 15th episode and school immunizations the 16th. The 17th was all about exercise, and the last was "lest we forget" about the scourge of 20th century wars. The entire cast was on stage for the epilogue.

The program for the entire celebration cost 25 cents and covered all activities plus the history of the society, biographies of several prominent physicians, and listings of officers and members.

Included were histories of the Adams County Health Department, Adams County Tuberculosis Association, Blessing Hospital and St. Mary Hospital.

As Gov. Stevenson said in concluding his remarks, "I salute you … for a century of health and progress, and for serving so well your country, your state, and your community."



Arlis Dittmer is a retired medical librarian. During her years with Blessing Health System, she became interested in medical and nursing history -- both topics frequently overlooked in history.



"3,000 at Premiere of ‘Flame of Life' Stadium Spectacle." Quincy Herald-Whig, Oct. 15, 1950.


"A Century of Progress (1850-1950). Quincy, Ill.: The Royal Printing Co., 1950.


"Floats of Great Beauty Featured in Saturday Procession." Quincy Herald-Whig, Oct. 15, 1950.


"Governor Praises Quincy And Adams County as Health Progress Leaders." Quincy Herald-Whig, Oct. 15, 1950.


"Record-breaking Crowds View Medical Society Centennial Parade." Quincy Herald-Whig, Oct. 15, 1950.