Is there a Doctor in the Family?

ytomgxzjcA while back, I wrote about my Great-Great Aunt Emma Reinhardt.  When doing research on her, I decided to search for her first husband.  There was so much information on him that I decided to write a separate post about him.  If you like you can go back and read my previous post about Aunt Emma’s two lives.  She married Dr. Frederick L. Orsinger on 2 September 1910.[1]  He was 33 years older than Emma.[2]  He had five children with his first wife, Lena, some older than Emma.[3]  His first wife Lena died in 1903.[4]  I can remember my grandmother would say with disgust in her voice, “Aunt Emma married that old Doc Orsinger.”  As a child I never questioned it.  I knew by my grandmother’s tone of voice she did not like him, but never asked any questions.  It really didn’t matter because this was long before I was born.  The Aunt Emma I knew was a kindly old woman who was now married to a very nice man.  When I went to enter her information into my family tree software, I wanted to be as accurate as possible, so I started looking for “Old Doc Orsinger”.  Well, between and Google, I came up with a lot of information.  Of course, I always would like more.  “Old Doc Orsinger” seems to be a colorful character to say the least.

“Frederick L. Orsinger was born in Baden, Germany on 8 March 1852.  At four years old he started attending school in his native town until age 14 under the priests of the parochial school.  At age 15 he went to Austria where he studied for a year.  He later spent a year and half in school in Switzerland studying medicine in Zurich.  In 1870 he completed a course in medicine and surgery in Zurich, Switzerland, and from there went to Paris, where he studied for six months. In 1871 he came to the United States and landed in Chicago on 9 October 1871 the same day as the Chicago Fire.  He decided not to stay in Chicago because of the destruction caused by the fire.   He headed for LaSalle, Illinois where he worked in his Uncle’s bakery.  While in LaSalle he purchased a drug store and engaged in the practice of medicine.  He realized that college training in America would prove valuable to him, and studied five years at the college of physicians and surgeons in Chicago, from which he graduated.  He gained experience during a year at Cook County Hospital”.[5]  Sounds like quite a resume doesn’t it?  But then I started to find articles in periodicals about Dr. Orsinger starting about 1903.

Here are some of the articles I found:

  • The Medical News: A Weekly Journal of Medical Science Vol 83, No 1, (New York) Saturday, July 4. 1903, Pg. 274. “Injunction secured by Dr. Orsinger – Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger has secured an injunction restraining the State Board of Health, Justice Chott and his constable from causing imprisonment or enforcing judgement of $100 and costs secured against him for violation of medical Laws.”[6]
  • Journal of the American Medical Association – Medical News Vol 44, April 1, 1905. Pg. 104 “Fined for Illegal practice – Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger on March 24 was fined $200 for practicing without a license. The prosecution was undertaken by Chicago Board of Health.”[7]
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol 44 Jan – June 1905 Pg. 1124 (Chicago: American Medical Association Press, 1905) “Sues state board – Dr. Frederick L. Orsinger, formerly of LaSalle, who claims to be a graduate of Zurich, Switzerland, 1870 and has a diploma from the eclectic institution of April 1904, has asked the state board of Health be compelled by writ of mandamus to issue him a certificate to practice medicine in the state. On March 24 the appellant was fined $200 for violation of the medical practice act.”[8]
  • Bulletin Vol 6 Numbers 1-5 January-May 1910. Dr. F. L. Orsinger Makes New Move in Fight for License. Physician Refused Permit to Practice after Failing in Examinations. Dr. Frederick Leo Orsinger’s long continued fight to be permitted to continue the practice of medicine in Illinois without a state license took a new turn yesterday, when he obtained from Judge Walker in the circuit court a temporary order prohibiting the State Board of Health from prosecuting him.  The question of dissolving the order or making it permanent will be argued today. The Order was issued upon the recommendation of Master in Chancer, Albert W. Brickwood, who according to Attorney Charles G. Hoffman, representing the State Board of Health is the attorney of record for the plaintiff in two actions recently instituted by the National Medical University against the Board.  Sues to Compel Recognition. One of these is a suit for $500,000 damages because of the Board’s refusal to recognize the University.  The other is for a writ of mandamus to compel such recognition.  According to Dr. Orsinger’s bill of complaint, he has been practicing medicine in Illinois since 1872 and is a graduate of the medical schools of Zurich, Switzerland, and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago.  In July 1908 he secured a writ of mandamus directing the State Board to issue him a certificate entitling him to practice.  Board refuses to obey. The board refused to obey the writ, and during last February the mandamus order was vacated and the court held against Dr. Orsinger.  His appeal now is before the Appellate court. “Dr. Orsinger has twice taken the state examination,” said attorney Hoffman, “and has twice failed (Chicago Tribune April 17).  Dissolves Restraining Order.  Court Ends Temporary Injunction Granted Dr. F. L. Orsinger against State Health Board. In the circuit court yesterday Judge Walker dissolved the temporary restraining order which he issued last Friday against the State Board of Health upon the petition of Dr. Frederick Leo Orsinger.  It was held by the court that Dr. Orsinger’s fear of being prosecuted by the Board for practicing medicine without a license was not sufficient reason for issuing an injunction.  Dr. Orsinger was allowed five days in which to amend his petition (Chicago Tribune April 18).[9]
  • Illinois Medical Journal: the official organ of the Illinois State Medical Society Vol 18, July to Dec 1910. Pg. 262, George N. Krieder, M.D., editor “Dr. Fred L. Orsinger, 750 W. Congress, who is said to have fought the State Board of Health for thirty two years against taking out a license to practice medicine, was indicted by the June grand jury of Cook County on the charge of having performed an operation on Pauline Sproc, which resulted in her death.”[10]
  • June 16, 1910, Mrs. Paulina Sproc, a 35-year-old immigrant from Bohemia, died in a Chicago home from an abortion that had been performed on June 5. W.L. Orainger (F. L. Orsinger) was held by the coroner’s jury. The source document doesn’t indicate that the case ever went to trial.  George N. Krieder, M.D., editor [11]
  • March 13, 1917 – From the Chicago Police Department Homicide Records 1870 – 1930. Schofield, Mannie L. Age 33 – died from an abortion at 325 Robey St., operation performed by Fred L. Orsinger, who with F. Schofield (her husband) were held by the coroner 3/15/17.  5/8/20 Orsinger acquitted.[12]
  • X-BUTCHER, NOW DOCTOR, IS HELD FOR WOMANS DEATH. Dr. Fred L. Orsinger, who the Chicago police say, is a former butcher and an ex-convict, was held last night after the death of Mrs. Minnie L. Schofield, 325 South Robey Street Physicians at the county hospital say she died from a criminal operation and Identified Dr. Orsinger shortly before she died. Thomas F. Schotield, husband of the victim, also was held. He admitted introducing Orsinger to his wife, but denied knowing of the alleged operation. Chicago Livestock World[13]

These articles raised more questions about the doctor.  Was his complaint against the Board of Health legitimate or did the Board of Health have a legitimate complaint against the doctor?  Was he a fraud?  Did he really go to medical school in Switzerland and the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the University of Illinois College of Medicine)? Why could he not pass the State Board Exam with his education and experience practicing Medicine?  To be fair, when Dr. Orsinger started practicing medicine no license was required.  Over the years the states started requiring licenses and raised the standards to practice medicine.  This was probably a big change for some doctors and they might not have liked being regulated.  Change is always hard and some people take it harder than others.  This also was taking away his livelihood.   “Illinois started requiring doctors to be licensed in 1877, and Medical licensing boards’ enforcement powers forced fundamental changes in medical school curriculum’s, purged unlicensed ignorant practitioners and outright frauds, reduced the number of non-medical school graduates, marginalized midwives, revoked the licenses of abortionists, and unified the best of both regular and irregular medical practitioners.”[14]   One article said he fought the Board of Health for the past 32 years, which means he started fighting the board around 1877 at the time Illinois started requiring licenses.

Two women died after he performed an abortion which was not legal at that time.  The one article calls him an ex-convict. Does that mean that he was convicted of the first woman’s death in 1910?  I have been unable to find out if he was an ex-butcher.  The 1880 Census has his occupation as a saloon keeper.[15]  The 1894 city directory lists his occupation as real estate and saloon keeper.[16]  In the 1898 and 1904 city directory he is listed as a physician.[17]  According to the 1920 Census Emma and Fred are not living together, however Emma still uses the surname Orsinger.[18]  I assume they were still married, but separated.  He died in 1923.[19]

Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst


[1] Chicago:  Its history and Its Builders

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Injunction secured by Dr. Orsinger.” The Medical News: A Weekly Journal of Medical Science Vol 83, No 1, Saturday, July 4. 1903, (New York) Pg. 274.

[7] “Fined for Illegal practice.” Journal of the American Medical Association – Medical News Vol 44, April 1, 1905. Pg. 104

[8] Simmons, M.D., George H., editor, “Sues State Board.” Jama:  The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol 44, Jan – June 1905, (Chicago: American Medical Association Press, 1905) Pg. 1124.

[9] “Dr. F. L. Orsinger Makes New Move in Fight for License. Physician Refused Permit to Practice after Failing in Examinations.” Bulletin. Vol 6 Numbers 1-5 January-May 1910.

[10] Krieder, M.D., George N., editor.  “Dr. Fred L. Orsinger.” Illinois Medical Journal: the official organ of the Illinois State Medical Society Vol 18, July to Dec 1910. Pg. 262.

[11] Website: Cemeteryofchoice

[12] Chicago Police Department Homicide Records 1870 – 1930. Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Ronald Williams Library, Northwestern University, 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue, Chicago, Il 60625-4699

[13] Chicago Livestock World, 14 March 1917.

[14] Sandvick C. Enforcing Medical Licensing in Illinois: 1877-1890. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2009;82(2):67-74.

[15] 1880; Census Place: La Salle, La Salle, Illinois; Roll: 223; Family History Film: 1254223; Page: 294D; Enumeration District: 069; Image: 0110

[16] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[17] Ibid.

[18]1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 13, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_322; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 758; Image: 281

[19] Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

5 thoughts on “Is there a Doctor in the Family?

  1. Pingback: Almost 2018 Happy New Year! | Family Tales from Gail

  2. My husband and I recently purchased the building that housed his saloon. I came across your blog while doing some historical research for some grants for the rehab we are starting. The address is 728 First Street, La Salle, IL if you are ever in the area. It’s stamped with 1887 at the top.

  3. Pingback: Unusual Sources | Family Tales from Gail

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