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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

May 19, 2022

One of the things that would set St. Louis on its path toward being world renown in medicine, was the arrival of Antoine Saugrain. A doctor who, among other things, gave the first small pox vaccines west of the Mississippi. Just press play to hear the whole story. ------

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Adam Kloppe, public historian with the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty-eight-one, KDHX. ———

When St. Louis was established in 1764, it was a small trading outpost. Its founders had grand visions for what that trading outpost might become, but one thing that they probably never imagined is that St. Louis would become a home of world-class hospitals and cutting-edge medical and pharmaceutical science, the way it is today. That’s because, for over twenty years after St. Louis was founded, there were no doctors in St. Louis. ———

That all changed in 1799, when the Paris-trained physician and chemist Antoine Saugrain chose to move here. Soon after Saugrain arrived he was performing surgeries, diagnosing illnesses, and prescribing cures for the ailments of St. Louisans and folks from the surrounding region. While Saugrain had many medicines shipped in to St. Louis, he also hand-made many treatments out of the medicinal herbs and plants that he grew in his own garden. In addition to offering medical treatment to the city’s residents, Saugrain also helped trappers and traders heading west to stock up with the medical equipment they would need on their journeys. Most notably, Saugrain helped to outfit the Lewis and Clark expedition with medical provisions—even hand-making and calibrating the thermometers they would use as they traveled to the Pacific and back again. The tools Saugrain provided to Lewis and Clark proved invaluable to the expedition. ———

Dr. Saugrain was also well known in St. Louis for his charitable spirit. One of the best-educated early St. Louisans, Dr. Saugrain had a huge private library of over 450 books. He often opened that private library to the public, so that citizens of St. Louis could read the latest cultural and scientific texts from around the globe. But he began performing his most charitable act in 1809. That year, Saugrain began administering the smallpox vaccine in St. Louis, the first time the vaccine had been available west of the Mississippi River. In an act of charity, Dr. Saugrain advertised that he would administer the vaccine to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. His selflessness saved many lives as people traveled from all over the territory to receive the vaccine. Saugrain died in 1820, but the city he called home continued to lead the way in the medical field long after his passing. ———

Here’s History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Adam Kloppe, and this is eighty-eight-one, KDHX, St. Louis. ———