Veterinary society honors founder, historic collection

PULLMAN, Wash. – Acclaimed veterinary historian, educator, publisher and editor J. Frederick Smithcors donated his 1,200-volume library to the Washington State University Libraries in 1978. Thirty-five years later, the American Veterinary Medical History Society will host an all-day Smithcors History of Veterinary Medicine Symposium Sunday, July 21, in Chicago to honor the late WSU donor and AVMHS founder/first president.

Smithcors’ veterinary history collection at WSU includes texts dating back to the 16th century and is considered one of the finest collections devoted to the history of veterinary medicine.

“We are grateful to be the beneficiaries of Dr. Smithcors’ magnificent library,” said Trevor Bond, head of WSU Libraries Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections, where the collection is housed. “His astute collecting resulted in a collection that is both broad and deep in coverage. For many authors, we have every edition published of their works.”

Among the landmark works in the collection are “Anatomia del Cavallo” (1707) by Carlo Ruini, considered the father of equine anatomy; Andrew Snape’s “Anatomy of an Horse” (1683); and George Stubb’s magnificent folio, “The Anatomy of the Horse” (1766). Smithcors also collected the earliest American imprints on veterinary topics, including multiple editions of The Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier (1764, 1797, 1803 and 1839).

Smithcors developed a veterinary history program for WSU veterinary students with College of Veterinary Medicine dean and professor emeritus Leo Bustad. As a visiting professor to the Pullman campus, Smithcors lectured on veterinary history every fall from 1978 until 1998.

Outside of his WSU affiliation, Smithcors published 150 articles in professional journals and wrote three definitive books on veterinary history. He was a longtime member and eventually editor-in-chief of American Veterinary Publications. He taught the first course on the history of veterinary medicine in the United States at Michigan State University. He died in 2006.

“He was a soft-spoken man and a true gentleman,” said Vicki Croft, head of WSU’s Animal Health Library, who will represent the WSU Libraries at the symposium. “Dr. Smithcors was active in the society for a long while.”

The symposium is part of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention July 19-23. The association celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

“It was very appropriate and logical to name our symposium the Smithcors History of Veterinary Medicine Symposium,” said Howard Erickson, symposium organizer and emeritus professor of physiology and history of veterinary medicine, Kansas State University at Manhattan. “The American Veterinary Medical History Society essay contest is named in honor of J. Fred Smithcors, as well, for his many contributions to veterinary history.”