Latino Heritage Month Spotlight: Louis Perfecto Oviedo

In celebration of Latina/Latino Heritage Month, we’re recognizing one of UCSF’s early graduates of Mexican descent, Louis Perfecto Oviedo.

Louis Perfecto Oviedo graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine (then called the Medical Department of the University of California) in 1891. According to census records, Oviedo was born in San Francisco, California in 1871. His mother and father were both from Mexico.


Toland Medical Building, circa 1885. Oviedo would have attended courses in this building. UCSF Archives, Photograph collection

Oviedo attended St. Mary’s College in the Bay Area before completing his medical degree. He later worked at French Hospital in San Francisco and started his own private practice.

Oviedo and his wife, Alicia, participated in community and service organizations in the city. For instance, in 1896, they helped organize the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union’s Carnival of Nations, a fundraising event for the group’s building fund. Alicia and Louis manned the Mexican booth during the event.


The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, September 9, 1896

Oviedo died on May 30, 1898 in San Francisco. The young doctor was survived by his wife and son, Louis Jerome Oviedo. Records indicate that Alicia was pregnant at the time of Louis’s death; in July, 1898, she gave birth to another son, George Francis Oviedo.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

Louis Jerome Oviedo and George Francis Oviedo both followed in their father’s footsteps. In 1923, Louis and George graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine!

UC Medical School (later UCSF) campus, 1921.

Parnassus campus, 1921. From UC Medical School course announcement, 1923-1924.

Please join us in the Library, Thursday, October 8, 2015, for the UCSF Latino Heritage Month Celebration, hosted by Diversity and Outreach and Alumni Relations. Learn more about the event and RSVP here.

Dental Department Buried Treasure

Last week we looked at the Dental Department “Earthquake Class” of 1906. This week we have another unique dentistry story. It involves feuding faculty, buried treasure, and a surprise discovery!

The Dental Department / College of Dentistry of the University of California was established in 1881. San Francisco practitioner Samuel W. Dennis, MD, DDS, was instrumental in its founding; he gathered support from Medical Department faculty, corresponded with other dental programs in the country to create a curriculum, and recruited dental instructors. He served as the first dean of the school from 1881-1882 and was later reappointed, serving from 1883-1885.

Samuel W. Dennis

Samuel W. Dennis

Disagreements concerning curriculum and the school’s administration quickly developed between Dennis and his fellow dental faculty members. Tensions continued to mount for the next fifteen years until a disgruntled Dennis left the college in 1896.

First faculty of the Dental Department, 1882. AR 2015-4 SOD records

First faculty of the Dental Department, 1882. AR 2015-4 SOD records, box 1

When Dennis left, he took with him a number of the school’s early records, including receipts, announcements, lecture notes, and examples of course requirements and examinations. Apparently, he then buried the material in a lead box under a grove of eucalyptus trees in South San Francisco. When Dennis died in 1906 (some accounts say 1907) he had never revealed the exact location of the records.

From the "Treasure Chest" contents: Anatomy test, 1891. AR 2015-4 SOD records, box 1

From the “Treasure Chest” contents: Anatomy test, 1891. AR 2015-4 SOD records, box 1

In 1929, as workers were excavating an area on which the Bayshore Highway was to be constructed, they uncovered a heavy box. Inside they found old documents labeled “Dental Department of the University of California.” Luckily, one of the workers recognized the potential value of the discovery and returned the material to the university. Dean Guy S. Millberry began investigating the papers and came to the conclusion that they had to be the missing Dennis material.

From the "Treasure Chest" contents: Freshman student course requirements, undated

From the “Treasure Chest” contents: Freshman student course requirements, undated. AR 2015-4 SOD records, box 1

The box came to be known as the “Treasure Chest.” Today, the box and its surviving contents are housed in the UCSF Archives and Special Collections as part of the School of Dentistry records, AR 2015-4.

– Sources for this post include a 1997 School of Dentistry history booklet titled “The Early Days,” published by the University of California. The booklet is available to researchers in the School of Dentistry records, AR 2015-4.

Dentistry “Earthquake Class” of 1906

On April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake struck San Francisco. UC facilities in the city sustained serious damage, including the destruction of the clinical teaching lab of the School of Dentistry (then called the College of Dentistry / Dental Department). As the college began to reestablish teaching activities following the disaster, dentistry faculty considered how best to manage the would-be graduating class of 1906.

College of Dentistry class of 1906. AR 2015-4 SOD records

College of Dentistry class of 1906. AR 2015-4 SOD records

Though further instruction immediately following the earthquake was not possible and many of the department’s student records were destroyed, the faculty ultimately decided to recommend the class of 1906 for graduation. As Dentistry Dean and Professor Guy S. Millberry noted in his key to the class photograph, the students “graduated after the Earthquake April 18 without examination.”

Guy Millberry key to the "earthquake class" photo, 1906. AR 2015-4 SOD records

Guy Millberry key to the 1906 “earthquake class” photo. AR 2015-4 SOD records

Look closely at the class photograph above and you’ll notice a surprising detail: a skull in the second row (click on the image to enlarge). Millberry even includes a sketch of the skull in his key, noting its identity is unknown.

Click here to learn more about how the Affiliated Colleges (later UCSF) responded to the earthquake. The School of Dentistry records, AR 2015-4, include a number of early dentistry photographs and historical documents. Please contact us if you would like to view the material.