The Dazzling Diamonds of the Lady Dentist: 1909

Dr Luella Cool, Lady Dentist

Dr Luella Cool, Lady Dentist

Today, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, there is a form of dental adornment known as “grills,” generally worn by the more louche musicians and often adorned with diamonds. It is assumed that such accoutrements are an innovation of the last decade, yet there is nothing new under the gums….

INVENTED DIAMOND SMILES

Woman Who Did It Tells of Her Dazzling Success.

Male dentists all over the country must square their shoulders to bear a load of chagrin, for the operator who first conceived those two triumphs of modern dentistry, the setting of diamonds in the front teeth and the engraving of the patient’s name and address on gold crowns as a permanent means of identification, is a woman! Both these innovations are innovations no longer, but the dentist to whose enterprise they are due—she admits that herself—is in town for a few days and told about them yesterday at the Hotel Victoria.

Dr. Luella Cool [1873-1943] of Oakland, Cal., is the dentist who has pinnacled herself upon the heights of fame. In private life she is Mrs. Walker, but after her second husband, Mr. Walker, died, she resumed the final name of her first husband, who himself, like Mr. Walker, and the wife of both, was a dentist. Going back still further, Dr. Cool’s father was a dentist, and that really was the cause of her taking up the profession herself—back in the days when experience in an office under a competent dentist was all that was necessary for qualifying.

Dr. Cool received her diploma in California twenty years ago. She practiced there for ten years and then went to Guatemala. Before leaving this country she began experimenting on herself to see what new stunts could be done in the way of oral decoration. Dr. Walker says she always tries experiments on herself first before putting them before the general public; then if anything goes wrong she is the only one to suffer from it.

Well, she looked around and finally decided that it would be a good idea to brighten up a smile with a diamond of a carat or less, depending on the size of the mouth which was to be illuminated. So she bored a hole in a front tooth, inserted the stone in what, in honor of its inventor, really should be called a Dr. Cool setting and beamed real radiance on all comers. The innovation was a success—an instantaneous, rip-roaring success. Of course diamonds in the teeth didn’t appeal to the ultra-conservative, but they did strike the fancy of people whose pictures find their way into the sporting papers, and business was good for the inventor. When she came to New York on her way to Central America Dr. Cool’s fame had preceded her and she was asked to superintend similar operations here. Now every time you see a man or woman with a diamond studded smile, think of Dr. Cool and know it was only through her ingenuity that this boon of modern civilization was given to humanity.

So much for the first of her two great inventions. The second came about through constant reading of the newspapers and their accounts of bodies lying unidentified in morgues. Why not, thought Dr. Cool—why not engrave the name and address of the wearer on a substantial gold crown, cap in on any tooth that needed it, and then when the necessity arose there would be a means of identification securely fastened to the man or woman, dead or alive, dressed or not dressed.

Dr. Cool tells of the practical working of this latter scheme. It wasn’t so long ago that she wanted to get some money which had been deposited to her credit in a Chicago bank. The bank people wanted some identification and she didn’t know a soul in town. She showed them letters—not quite enough; showed them the inscription in her watch—still not quite enough. Then she bethought herself of her own invention, tried first on herself, and opening her mouth and pointing to a gold-capped molar bade the paying teller look.

He read not only her name but the fact that she lived in Oakland, Cal.; and it satisfied him. A person might wear another person’s watch, argued the teller, but a gold crown on a molar was a different matter.

Dr. Cool, according to her own story, achieved both fame and money in Guatemala. Dentists are more rare in that country than in this and their services are therefore in greater demand. A Guatemalan dentist has much the same sort of practice as a country doctor, and Dr. Cool was called here and there and everywhere. Finally she was taken with yellow fever in a coast town and had to go to the highlands. After her recovery she returned to the United States. The Sun [New York, NY] 3 October 1909: p. 12 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Dr Cool seems to have had a very independent spirit. Lady dentists were not usual at this time, let alone ones who traveled alone to Central America. The article says that her husband Dr Walker died. What it does not say is that he separated from his wife shortly before his death at the urging of his daughters and “pretty niece,” (as the papers said) who also talked him into changing the beneficiary on his insurance policies to themselves. Dr Cool filed for divorce on the grounds of desertion. Dr Walker died before the divorce was final. Dr Cool sued the daughters and niece for the proceeds of the insurance policies, but lost the case. She had previously been in the news in a most sensational manner when a patient fatally shot her lover in the outer room of Dr Cool’s dental office in 1906.

This excerpt from a jeweller’s trade journal describes more about Dr Cool and her diamond-set-tooth process. 

 Dr. Cool, who recently arrived in New York, visited The Circular office and explained her processes. She is a handsome brunette, and when she smiles shows two diamonds set in her front teeth—one in the upper and the other in the lower jaw— which give a dazzling effect. The diamonds, she explains, are set in the teeth by one of two methods: the first is similar to that used by a jeweler in setting a ring, the setting being filled in and burnished down; the other method is to cement in the stone. The acid or saliva has no effect on the gem, nor is the stone noticeable when coming in contact with the lips.

The cost of the diamond work varies and depends on the size and purity of the gem. Dr. Cool does not confine herself entirely to diamond work, but is proficient in all branches of dentistry, she having also originated the idea of gold crown work, with the name and city of residence engraved thereon as means of identification in case of accident or sudden death. In her own mouth Dr. Cool has a gold crown, inserted by herself, on which is engraved “L. Cool, 1893 “—the latter being the year she originated the idea.

Dr. Cool claims to have set many diamonds in the teeth of ladies of San Francisco and other western cities, and expects that the fad will spread. She starts the latter part of this month for Guatemala, where she will practice her profession. The Central Americans, as a people, are passionately fond of diamonds, and wear them on all occasions, and therefore the charming doctor expects to have a large demand for her work. The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 29, 1894

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a glittering array of fashion hints, curious tales, fads and fancies.

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3 thoughts on “The Dazzling Diamonds of the Lady Dentist: 1909

  1. Susan M

    I met a woman once who had a diamond in one front tooth. It was ugly and it made her look ugly. This is one of those things that has to be done exactly right — the mere fact of having a diamond in one’s front tooth is no guarantee of beauty. Also, one might encounter people who would be willing to knock said tooth out in order to benefit from the diamond themselves. All in all, a very bad idea IMHO.

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  2. Pingback: Bejewelled Fingertips: The Fad of the Moment: 1903 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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