The Congress of 1910

by Linda Draper, Special Collections Librarian, Archives & Museum of Optometry and Irving Bennett, O.D.

cedar-pointOne hundred years ago the AOA’s 13th annual convention was held at The Breakers Hotel, Cedar Point, Ohio.  Estimated attendance was 310.  Cedar Point boasted of having the largest and most modern hotels on the Great Lakes, and the seven-mile bathing beach was considered to be the finest in the world.  In fact, the splendid surf bathing proved a great attraction.  It was difficult to keep members at lectures inside the hotel.  Due to the August heat, the meeting finally adjourned to the open in a grove of cedar trees.

There were more ladies at this meeting than at any previous one, and the Canadian contingent was stronger than usual.  Rooms at the Breakers were $1.00-$1.50 per person, per day.  Scientific sessions were popular as always, and the program included practical talks related to the business or commercial side of optometry. The exhibit hall was called a “marvel of beauty as well as a showhouse of useful and new things that every delegate was glad to see.”  Souvenirs were abundant.

Ambiance aside, the meeting had somber and serious tones due primarily because the American Medical Association meeting in St. Louis the year before (1909) had adopted a resolution “instructing its officers to begin at once the prosecution of non-medical refractionists and endeavor to obtain Supreme Court decisions interpreting the practice of optometry as a violation of the medical practice act.”

At the 1910 convention, according to Gregg, President H .J. Cook advanced proposals to “promote a universal uplift of the profession, primarily aimed toward the ultimate goal of an optometry law in every state.”  Cook advanced certain action proposals that are as valid today as they were 100 years ago:

“A committee on statistics. To make an annual report in tabulated form showing number of refractionists, types of practice, and such things.

“Strengthen the organization.  To develop concrete evidence of the usefulness of the National Society and to demonstrate its right to exist.

“A publicity committee.  To make it known that optometry is as distinctly special as dentistry, law or the gospel.

“Uniformity of state boards. To develop a comprehensive syllabus with uniform examination conditions.

“A lecture bureau.  To place good optometric speakers at all educational gatherings.”

By 1910 the association had 6,500 paid members and 24 states had optometry laws.  Discussion at the convention was that the national association should take a more active and aggressive part on behalf of new optometry laws.  Up to this time the burden and frustration of the work had fallen almost altogether on the state societies, and there was a feeling that the national association should lend a hand.

not-a-pillThe association was growing.  A new delegated system of representation at convention seemed advisable to assure fair deliberations and a resolution was passed to establish it.   It was voiced that physicians and the general public were misinformed about optometry.  Charles Prentice’s phrase “a lens is not a pill” was taken up as a slogan, and at this 1910 convention button-hole lapel pins were worn by “one and all” with that slogan.

The announcement of the establishment of a course in optometry at Columbia University was met with much jubilation as it was a big step for recognition of the profession.  Cedar Point, Ohio is known in optical history as the place at which the American Association of Opticians changed its name to the American Optical Association, changed again in 1919 to the American Optometric Association.

The 1910 convention was notable for the good fellowship and harmony that prevailed.  Those attending the Salt Lake City convention in 1911 would find a different spirit.


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