#232: Greene V. Black

October 21st, 2013

“BORN ON THE PRAIRIES OF CENTRAL ILLINOIS; SELF EDUCATED, HE BECAME IN HIS PROFESSION THE FOREMOST SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATOR WRITER AND TEACHER OF HIS TIME”

Greene Vardiman Black (1836-1915) was the father of modern dentistry.

Charlie is a small white dog.

“Charlie, sit. Stay, Charlie. Charlie. Charlie. Charlie. Sit. Charlie,” the gray-haired man on the other end of Charlie’s leash warned as he tried to make the dog pose for an iPhone picture by the metal feet of G.V. Black.

At the south end of Lincoln Park, the park itself, there is a statue of the dentist king. It’s remarkably detailed, from the veins on his heads to the laces neatly tied in his metal shoes. If not for the slight over-human size, this lifelike statue could be the setup for a metallurgy-themed “Tales from the Crypt” episode.

“Charlie. Charlie,” the gray-haired man warned as Charlie walked up to sniff his master’s phone and lick his fingers.

The statue was erected in 1918 by grateful dentists in honor of Dr. Black’s work. His CV is impressive, I discovered later as I read up on the man. He went from misfit country boy roaming the fields and forests with a shotgun to a life of lab work studying teeth at Northwestern.

They put a statue of a dentist in a major city park. That’s how respected he was.

Nearly a century later, there he still sat, two buttons of a double-breasted metal coat forever unbuttoned, bow tie and waistcoat forever jaunty. He looked out over the south edge of Lincoln Park, watching rich and poor scoot by to and from the beach.

He was covered in small yellow leaves and the egg sacs of spiders.

The gray-haired man snapped the picture. He wanted a photo of his beloved pet by a sad-eyed statue. I found that touching. I asked him if he had any reason to be there, anything that made this elegant metal man particularly stand out to him.

He shook his head and smiled.

“I have no idea who he was but I respected him enough that the dog didn’t pee on his leg,” he said.

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A National Institutes of Health article on G.V. Black (actually really interesting)

More lost history

More statues

Another thing that took place 20 feet from there

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You are currently reading #232: Greene V. Black by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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