Scope and Content
Title: Richard Beverly Cole Papers
Collection number: MSS 20-4
Creator: Cole, Richard Beverly, 1829-1901
Extent: 3 boxes
University of California, San Francisco. Library. Archives and Special Collections.
San Francisco, California 94143-0840
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], Richard Beverly Cole Papers, MSS 20-4, Archives & Special
Collections, UCSF Library & CKM
Richard Beverly Cole was born in Manchester, Virginia on August 12, 1829. He began his
medical studies at the age of sixteen when he became an assistant to Dr. Benjamin Dudley
of Lexington, Kentucky. After a few months of this apprenticeship, he enrolled in the
Medical Department of Transylvania University (now the University of Louisville). After a
year he transferred to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, receiving his M.D. in
March of 1849. In May of 1849 a cholera epidemic broke out in Philadelphia; Dr. Cole was
made physician in chief of the Pine Street Cholera Hospital, living and working within
the walls of this temporary institution until the epidemic subsided in August, shortly
after his twentieth birthday. He continued in general practice in Philadelphia until
1852, when he emigrated to California.
He established an office in Little's Drug Store at 137 Montgomery Street in San
Francisco, first as a surgeon and later specializing in gynecology and obstetrics. This
was a historically eventful period in San Francisco, and Cole played a part in much of
that history. On May 14, 1856, Cole was one of the many physicians in attendance when
James King of William --a personal friend of Cole's --was fatally shot by James Casey.
Following King's death, Cole claimed that the physicians in charge of the case were
guilty of malpractice. The claim was an issue in the 1858 trial of Judge Edward McGowan;
McGowan was acquitted, but Cole had earned the enmity of H. H. Toland (the two physicians
had given opposing testimony). Also during this period Cole functioned as surgeon to the
second Committee of Vigilance; in this capacity on June 21, 1856, he saved the life of
Sterling Hopkins, a marshall of the Committee of Vigilance who had been stabbed in the
throat by Judge David Terry. This case may have been the partial basis for Cole's having
been credited with being the first practitioner to ligate the common carotid and femoral
vessels. In 1858, as chairman of the Committee on Obstetrics and Diseases of Women of the
California State Medical Society, Cole presented a report to a meeting of the society
that included "extensive comment on the conduct and morals of the girls and women of
Cole made more enemies with such injudicious remarks, and sustained some damage to his
professional reputation. Despite this, in 1859 Cole was invited by Elias Samuel Cooper to
join the faculty of the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific, the first
medical school in California. Cole was professor of obstetrics and gynecology and also
served as dean of the school, which unfortunately collapsed within two years. This period
also saw the rise of the medical school established by Cole's rival H. H. Toland. It has
been said that this loss to Cole's reputation, and not just his poor health or even his
sympathy to the Confederate cause, was the reason he and his wife spent much of the Civil
War years in Europe. During this extended stay in Europe, Cole visited medical
institutions in England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany and obtained numerous
diplomas, fellowships and memberships. He returned to the United States in the spring of
1865 to find that the faculty of the defunct Medical Department of the University of the
Pacific, including Samuel Cooper's nephew Levi Cooper Lane, now was part of the staff of
Toland Medical College.
In 1867 Cole became a member of the Outside Lands Committee of the San Francisco Board of
Supervisors; in this capacity he interested the city in 1000 acres of land at the city's
westerm edge which eventually became Golden Gate Park. The following year San Francisco
suffered an epidemic of smallpox, and Cole was appointed chairman of the Board of
Supervisors' Hospital Committee. Coming to notice by his outstanding services in the
course of the epidemic, he was appointed Surgeon General of the State of California, a
position he held for four years.
In 1870 Toland conceded to Cole's renewed prominence and invited him to join the faculty
of the Toland Medical College as dean of the school (1871-1881) and professor of
gynecology (1870-1901). Cole's first important suggestion involved the school's
affiliation with the University of California; he conciliated negotiations between Toland
and the regents, and the affiliation took place in 1873. Cole became president of the
faculty in 1876. From 1873 to 1876 he was editor of the Western Lancet. In 1895 he was
elected president of the American Medical Association. In March of 1897 Cole oversaw the
laying of the cornerstone for the new medical buildings on Parnassus Avenue. He continued
his involvement with medical agencies of local government, and had begun a term as
coroner when he died on January 15, 1901.
Scope and Content
Correspondence, documents, autograph items, notes, certificates, programs, artifacts and
other memorabilia, architectural drawings, photographs, scrapbooks and clippings
collected or created by or about Richard Beverly Cole.