Edgar Randolph Parker used to travel with a bucket full of thousands of teeth that had been pulled over the years. This same bucket can be found on display at Parker's dental alma mater, Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
You may be wondering what's so special about Parker and this bucket of human teeth. Well, Parker was responsible for revolutionizing the field of dentistry with his showmanship and promotion methods throughout his career as arguably the most famous dentist in the U.S., according to BBC.
Parker went on to be known as "Painless Parker," due to his painless methods of tooth removal in town squares and on the sides of streets with the use of a watered down solution that included cocaine, which he called "hydrocaine." During the late 1800s and early 1900s, when Parker was working professionally, frequent dentist visits weren't a part of social norms due to the fact there wasn't much to stand on in the department of pain relief. So when Parker would travel and come into town with his "hydrocaine," he would become an instant hit and pull as many as 375 teeth in one sitting with the support of his gimmicks, according to the USHistory.org.
Parker was known to wear a top hat and a necklace made of pulled teeth to help sell the image and would travel across the western U.S. He even had a stagecoach that came with a dentist's chair so he could stop and give a show wherever he was. During different times in his life he worked as a ringleader in a circus and pulled teeth from members of the audience and eventually went on to open his own practice in Los Angeles.
In 1915, he legally changed his name to Painless Parker after laws were passed that made it illegal for dentists to practice under nonofficial names. At times, Parker was at odds with local lawmen and courts due to his promotional methods and gimmicks. Other dentists challenged Parker because they felt he was taking too large a portion of their business with his popularity and negotiable prices for poorer clients.
Painless Parker's legacy
But through all of the pushback, Painless Parker was able to become a famous dentist who owned multiple practices across the western parts of the U.S. at the time of his death in 1952. At one point, parker employed up to 75 dentists and grossed up to $3 million within a year.
Parker's tombstone uses his birth name, a choice made by his daughter, and can be found in Saratoga, California. While Painless Parker may not be a point of conversation among the average citizen in today's world, his contributions to the field of dentistry can't go unnoticed. He realized the importance of good dental health and through great showmanship and the ability to hold a crowd, he helped dentistry turn a corner in the eyes of civilians.
Parker's largest practice is still open to the public in Los Angeles and hasn't changed much since it was opened in 1906, outside of overall advancements in dentistry technology. Sure, the owners may have changed a couple of times, but many of the clients claim that they're descendants of the same ones Painless Parker would have in his chair.