H. Winnett Orr at the University of Nebraska

H. Winnett Orr (1877-1956), a pioneer Lincoln orthopedic surgeon, had decided early in life to follow the example of his uncle, Dr. H. J. Winnett, and study medicine. In Orr’s 1952 book, Selected Pages from the History of Medicine in Nebraska, he recalled his premedical education at the University of Nebraska:

“I arrived in Lincoln [from Pennsylvania] on August 25, 1892. The same day, Dr. Winnett placed in my hands a small account book with instructions to keep a record of all receipts and expenditures from that time forward. This book, and two others that followed, actually did itemize every one of my financial transactions from that time until June 1899, when I got my medical degree at Ann Arbor. And they furnished me with the outline for this account of my adventures during that period.”

Orr noted that his “[p]rincipal items of expense in the Fall of 1892 were, matriculation at the University, $5.00; Chemistry fee, $6.00; YMCA membership, $8.00 (my bathing trunks cost 25¢, and my gymnasium shoes, 65¢), Latin, English, and Algebra books, $5.00. I went to the Nebraska State Fair and ‘The Fall of Pompeii’ for 95¢. . . . In the December following, I got a present of $5.00 from my Father and rushed right out to buy Christmas gifts for all the folks ‘back home.’ The total amount of money I received from all sources, August 25 to Dec. 31 was $74.17 and in closing the year I had a balance of $1.18 to start 1893!”

Orr remembered that one of the courses he registered for was botany “under the celebrated Dr. Charles E. Bessey. This was one of my first ventures into what are now called ‘the basic Sciences. ‘ In those we got a text-‘Gray’ (at 80¢), a metal case and a trowel (for 60¢), and a pair of overshoes (60¢). We did not have all of our ‘specimens’ put under our noses, or on a screen in ‘visual education’ classes, as we do now. . . .

“During the summer of 1893 I developed typhoid fever and had a long and serious illness. (Some years later, I had typhoid fever patients of my own and helped trace the infection to Lincoln’s contaminated water supply.) My Mother came out from Pennsylvania and nursed me through July and August and then in September, I got scarlet fever and did not get back into school until in October-but survived, both physically and scholastically.”


Architecture Hall, the University of Nebraska’s first library, about 1890. Postcard from USGenWeb Archives.

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