Google Search

Dr. James W. White and "Incorruptible Teeth"

     An engraving of the Gemrig and Son surgical box is found on page 38 of Roberts Bartholow's A Manual of Hypodermatic Medication: The Treatment of Diseases By the Hypodermatic Or Subcutaneous Method.1 The box illustrates positioning of instruments as proposed by Dr. J. W. White. Gemrig boxw

     James White, the youngest son of William Rose and Mary Stockton White, was born on September 29, 1826 in Hulmeville, Pennsylvania. When he was fifteen he followed in the footsteps of a late uncle and older brother to learn the "art and mystery of the manufacture of incorruptible teeth."2

     According to an 1838 manual written on the subject, incorruptible teeth were made of feldspar, quartz, and kayolin. The coloring agents were "titanium, cobalt" oxide of gold and etc." The ingredients are "pulverized" and mixed with water to form a clay from which the teeth are fashioned. Once the shapes have been formed, the material is baked (or melted) and voila' ...the incorruptible tooth.3


     White's take on the entire process is actually slightly more humorous, because he described himself as "the entire working force of the establishment." White continued to explain how he, "ground the crude materials in a hand mortar, compounded them, and carried through all the processes to the finished product, --such as they were,--then turned traveling salesman, and exchanged them for currency."4

     After his brother's death, White ventured ahead and founded the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company in 1881. Its "paid in capital" foundation was one million dollars. Unsurprisingly, White was voted in as president of the company.  He lectured, wrote, served as editor of the Dental Cosmos (where much of this information was found) and was instrumental in charitable work.  Due to his efforts he received global recognition which is undoubtedly the reason Bartholow featured an engraving showing White's suggested surgical box.  

     White commissioned the box from Jacob H. Gemrig (died circa 1900)5 who was a surgical instrument maker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, active from 1841 to after 1880. He worked with various family members at several addresses throughout Philadelphia, the last being 109 S. 8th Street. During the Civil War, Gemrig contracted with the Union to supply its army with surgical instruments.6

      White was consistently voted in as president of the S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company every year until his death in May 27, 1891. In the words of those who knew him best (including one of his sons): 

He had the indescribable quality sometimes called personal magnetism, which attracted people to him; genial humor which charms them, and a sterling worth which bound them to his side. As an entertaining conversationalist he had few equals. Besides his wide grasp of real knowledge, he possessed a fund of anecdote that was inexhaustible. Every incident reminded him of a story, in the telling of which he was inimitable. 


1. A Manual of Hypodermatic Medication: the treatment of Diseases by the Hypodermatic or Subcutaneous Method. Roberts Bartholow. J. B. Lippincott Company. Philadelphia 1891. p. 38

2. The Dental Cosmos, Volume 33, J.D. White, John Hugh McQuillen, George Jacob Ziegler, James William White, Edward Cameron Kirk, Lovick Pierce Anthony, S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Company, 1891, page 506

3. Observations on the Structure, Physiology, Anatomy and Diseases of the Teeth: In Two Parts: Part First, Harvey Burdell, John Burdell. Gould and Newman, 1838. pp 34-35

4. Cosmos, 507

5. American Surgical Instruments: The History of Their Manufacture and a Directory of Instrument Makers to 1900. Edmonson, James M. Norman Publishing 1 January 1997, p. 46

6. You can view photos of surgical boxes Gemrig made on American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques a website moderated by Dr. Michael Echols and Dr. Doug Abittier. 


copyrighted by Pat Earnest. Delaware, 2015.


Pat Earnest is a history enthusiast, who has great regard for the past and is especially proud of the Pennsylvania German culture. In addition to Passed Time, I am currently working on a project for the German Historical Institutes Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies ( I also contribute to various newsletters and am working on another book...or two. Feel free to email me at with  questions, comments, information, a shared love of history, an idea, because you want to chat or you have an great idea for PT. Please be aware, Files With Attachments will not be opened, but immediately deleted.




Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.

People in this conversation

Load Previous Comments

Museum says missing Nazi submarine mystery solved

A Danish war museum says it found German U-boat U-3523 embedded on the sea floor, quashing years of speculation.



The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein

The Paperback of the The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein by Patricia Earnest Suter at Barnes & Noble. FREE Shipping on $25 or more!

USS Indianapolis wreckage found 72 years later - CNN Video

The remains of the USS Indianapolis, which delivered parts of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and was later sunk by a Japanese submarine, have been found.


Gaming etc.


Top 5 Mistakes Made by Game Company Executives


Modern Tabletop Arcades


Ahead of Their Time: Discontinued Game Consoles


Andrew Kamal is an app developer, programmer, and inventor who loves writing about historical technology and old games. He can be found in his free time hugging pugs and debating people about which pizza topics are better.












Siberia: Medieval Mummies From Mystery Arctic Civilization Discovered in Zelenyy Yar Necropolis

Two medieval mummies from a mystery Arctic civilization have been discovered at the edge of Siberia. The remains of an adult and baby were found in the Zelenyy Yar necropolis, an archaeological complex first discovered in 1997, and were covered in copper-with the adult having been plated from head to


Search This Site

Civil War Coloring Pages

Civil War Coloring Pages


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Library Company of Philadelphia

3d3f021a fd46 408d bfb6 eae0726eb7b8

A New Looking-Glass for the 1764 Pamphlet War




BibleRescue - Reuniting famly bibles with family

The family bible is a family's connection to the past and future. It connects an entire family across generations to their history, to their faith and provides an understanding of who their ancestors were. Family bibles often contain locks of hair, photographs, newspaper articles in addition to names, dates of birth, death and marriages.




be2acded e529 4958 b99a 550d69cebf62

ec91d0e7 13a7 4862 a980 bb23936626f6

25rd Annual Art & Leisure Auction

Features “Flashback Friday” Theme


Fastnacht Day: February 28 at

York County History Center

Fastnacht Day will be celebrated at the York County History Center’s Historical Society Museum on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. – noon. The Friends of the History Center will serve fastnachts, coffee, tea and hot chocolate at the Museum, located at 250 E. Market Street, York.

This free event is held each year as the Friends’ “thank you” to the community for their support throughout the year. Fastnacht Day originated with Pennsylvania Germans on Shrove Tuesday, when all fat had to be removed from the home before Lent.

The Friends hold fundraising events all year to benefit the programs and exhibits of the History Center.


York County History Center Closed January 26-27, 2017



universal York banner

Universal York Blog

Did colonial courthouse windows end up in the Dover area?

Jonathan Mifflin turns down York County post

York, Pa., really is the center of the universe, especially when you consider its place in historical events. Local historian June Lloyd looks at how things have converged on our hometown, past and present.





Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Pearl Harbor and the Erosion of Citizenship

1f349cd8 b394 4e98 b1cb 3c22f7b3570e





Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society | Preserving the culture of Mennonite-related faith communities in Lancaster County

Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society has added a new field trip to the 2016 schedule of events. Get a new view of historic sights in Lancaster and Lebanon with the upcoming field trip, "The Trail of Greenywalt's Boys."


Special Offer

VALUE PACK – Books For Genealogists


Letterpress Printing Game

Windsor Historical Society

Windsor Historical Society - The museum, library, and historic houses explore 370 years of history in Connecticut's oldest English town


Latest Blogs


American Antiquarian Society

About AAS The American Antiquarian Society is a national research library of American history and culture through 1876.more



Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs


African American History Month programs among 18 special events at the museums of the State of Delaware during February 2018


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor eight free programs during January 2018


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor 21 special programs during the 2017 winter-holiday season


“Doctor Who and William Penn” to be presented at Dover, Del.’s Old State House on Aug. 19, 2017


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs July 28, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 7


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs June 29, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 6



Online survey seeks public input regarding the preservation of historic places in Delaware


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs June 1, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 5


Zwaanendael Maritime Celebration: “A Sailor’s Life for Me” in Lewes, Del. on May 27 and 28, 2017

Andrew British Sailor WWI


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs March 27, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 3


Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs to sponsor 14 free programs during March 2017


New exhibit now open at Lewes, Del.’s Zwaanendael Museum


“Listen Up! African-American History” program Rescheduled


Newsletter of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs Jan. 31, 2017 * Volume 10, Issue 1


  African American History Month programs among 17 special events at the museums of the State of Delaware during February 2017











Virginia Tech was not the worst school massacre in U.S. history. This was.

That spring morning in 1927 could not have been more beautiful, one of the students would later recall. The Bath Consolidated School just outside East Lansing, Mich., was holding final exams, but before the morning bell rang on May 18, 1927, children ran and played outside. Peals of laughter could be heard.


WWII veteran's remains return home after missing 74 years

ATLANTA (AP) - More than 70 years ago, a U.S. Army plane dubbed "Hot as Hell" was headed for India on a supply mission. It never arrived, and no one went looking for the doomed aircraft or the eight men on board because military officials had no way of pinpointing where it went down.

Sword belonging to commander of black Civil War unit found

BOSTON (AP) - The sword that belonged to the commanding officer of the first all-black regiment raised in the North during the U.S. Civil War has been recovered after being lost to history for more than 150 years. The British-made sword carried into battle by Col.


'America's Frankenstein': Book to examine Philly's 'first mass murderer'

An upcoming book seeks to find the links between the fable of Frankenstein and a brutal Philadelphia mass murder that occurred nearly 50 years after the release of the famous novel. In "The Face of a Monster: America's Frankenstein," Delaware author Patricia Earnest Suter revisits the gruesome killings of eight people at the hands of Anton Probst in 1866.

Jaw-dropping discovery: Soldier's diary retells WWI horrors

Norman Gray, a fresh-faced 19-year-old was shipped off to France in 1914 to fight in World War I. Now his diary resurfaced, documenting the horrors of war.



Maria Tesch, 1850-1936 * - Kulturarv Östergötland

Östgötsk kulturhistoria. Uppgifter om arkiv, bibliotek, museer, hembygdsföreningar m.m.