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Madcap Medicine: The Life and Art of Louis Crusius, M.D.

Louis Crusius illustration for the 1897 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1897 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1898 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1898 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1899 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1899 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1900 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
Louis Crusius illustration for the 1900 Antikamnia Chemical Company calendar
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Louis Crusius, M.D.

Dr. Louis Crusius (1862-1898), the oldest of nine children of Ludwig and Emilie Crusius, was a native of Sauk City, Wisconsin. At fifteen, he became a printer’s apprentice in the newspaper office of his father who published the local German daily. He then went to Texas to work in the drugstore of his uncle, a physician and pharmacist. About 1880, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he graduated from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1882. For a time, he was part owner of the drugstore of Scheel and Crusius at the corner of 14th Street and Clark Avenue, with Gustav Scheel, his brother-in-law. 

The show-windows of his drug store always displayed six or eight of his comic watercolor sketches. None of these remained more than a week of so, being replaced by newer creations. The partnership continued until he graduated from the St. Louis College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1890 and entered the practice of medicine. He was lecturer and professor in histology at the Marion Sims Medical College, a precursor to the St. Louis University Medical Department.

Whatever the artist saw, heard or thought was likely to be developed into a picture that spoke for itself. He sketched this cartoon on a post card to Frederick S. Haeberle who gave the following account: “My first circumcision case came along & as I had not yet a C. clamp among instruments, Dr. C. offered to loan me his. The card was just a little reminder that Dr. C. needed his clamp. He also had gotten a case.”

A card sent by Dr. Crusius to a colleague who had borrowed a surgeon's clampIn 1893, he published The Funny Bone, a compilation of jokes and 150 cuts from his comic drawings. Thereafter, he produced many more original artworks, some of which were sold and used for advertising purposes. Most notable were those sold to the Antikamnia Chemical Company for The Antikamnia Calendars, 1897-1901 (see top slideshow for images). The company’s name, Antikamnia, means “opposed to pain” and its Antikamnia tablets were a patent medicine that reduced fever and relieved pain. Like Dr. Crusius, the company’s founders were graduates of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. The calendars were a limited edition sent to doctors upon request.

Many of The Antikamnia Calendars appeared after his untimely death in St. Louis on January 2, 1898. Louis Crusius was thirty-five years old when he died of a renal cell carcinoma (hypernephroma), discovered during an exploratory operation.

In 1933, Robert E. Schlueter, a medical colleague and friend, delivered at a faculty seminar at St. Louis University on “The art and humor of Dr. Louis Crusius.” Many examples of the artist’s work were on display as part of the seminar. An illustrated article about Crusius and the seminar about him appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. What happened to the original art pictured in the article is not known. What remains are publications illustrated by Louis Crusius in various libraries. Many of these are part of the Louis Crusius artifacts collection, 1893-1933, a visual collection given by the St. Louis Medical Society to the Bernard Becker Medical Library.

A page from Louis Crusius' The Funny Bone

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Sources:

“Dr. Louis Crusius by Robert E. Schlueter,” January 24, 1933

“The pictorial pranks of Dr. Louis Crusius by Guy Forshey.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 5, 1933

Images from the Louis Crusius artifacts collection (VC217)

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