On July 17, 1880 the Wisconsin Dental School was incorporated in Delavan, which is located in Walworth County at the southern end of the state. Delavan was also the winter quarters for clowns and other circus performers from 26 different circuses that toured the country from 1847 - 1894.
There was a huge demand for dental schools at the time because states began to enact laws that required dentists to graduate from dental schools in order to practice. The Wisconsin Dental School gained some worldwide attention during the short time it was in business.
Dr. Daniel B. Devendorf was the Professor of Dental Anatomy at the school. Two brothers John Morrison D.D.S. and George Morrison D.D.S. also ran the school. John Morrison had the title of Demonstrator of Operative Dentistry. George Morrison held the title of Demonstrator of Mechanical Dentistry.
The History of Walworth County stated that Dr. Devendorf graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York in 1845. He then spent one year at New York City Hospital. After that he practiced in three cities in New York state before coming to Delavan in 1856. He served as a surgeon during the Civil War. He returned to his practice in Delavan in 1865.
John Morrison enlisted in the Union Army of the Civil War in New York State in August of 1862 and discharged on July 25, 1865 and immediately set about studying dentistry in Ogdensburg, New York. Morrison left New York and moved to Palmyra in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. He practiced dentistry there for one and a half years. After that he moved to Paxton, Illinois and worked as a dentist there for two years and then to Harvard, Illinois until 1874 when he moved to Delavan, Wisconsin. He stayed in Delavan until his death in 1882.
George Morrison was the President of the Wisconsin Dental College. He was the oldest son of John and Elizabeth Morrison from Aberdeen, Scotland. He studied dentistry with a Dr. E.G. Fitch in Madrid, St. Lawrence County, New York before he started practicing on his own in 1861. He set up a practice in Delavan starting in 1871. He was the inventor of Morrison's Artificial Teeth Plate which was patented in 1869. One patent gives his address as Palmyra, Wisconsin (1871) and the other has an address of Lockport, Illinois (1869).
In The History of Dental Surgery, Vol. I, the Wisconsin Dental School was said to accept dentists that had been practicing for five years any time during the school year. All they had to do was to come to the school be examined and then they were granted a diploma. An example of a term at the school was in a letter that stated that if a student started in October of 1884 they could graduate in March of the following year.
Nine candidates graduated the first year. The second year another group of nine students graduated from the Wisconsin Dental School.
The Wisconsin Dental School was reported to be selling diplomas in London and Germany for $12 to individuals who had never set foot in a dental class in their lives. Dr. Devendorf was specifically named as paying an agent named Mr. Olschowsky to sell them in Europe in a letter from from someone who was concerned about chimney sweeps, car drivers and barbers in England all having these diplomas from the Wisconsin Dental School.
A letter to the Wisconsin State Dental Board was written stating that 1, 240 diplomas had been reportedly sold in London. It was also said that the three men running the school had mailed circulars to every dentist in the United States saying they would send them a diploma if they just mailed the Wisconsin Dental School $12.
More letters began to come in to the State of Wisconsin Board of Dental Examiners about the sale of diplomas without having to attend classes. The Wisconsin State Dental Society voted on a resolution of "condemnation" of the school and the National Dental Society confirmed this making diplomas from the Wisconsin Dental School pretty much worthless.
Dr. George Morrison died in 1886. The Wisconsin Dental School was closed at that time. Some accounts said they only actually had classes at the school for about two years. The circuses are more well known now in Delavan than the Wisconsin Dental School.