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DAY, BARNABAS W., dentist; b. 2 July 1833 in Kingston Township, Upper Canada, son of Calvin Woster Day, a farmer, and Elizabeth Wright; m. first 27 April 1859 Hannah Ford in Kingston, and they had one son and one daughter; m. secondly 1871 Elizabeth Powers, and they had two sons; m. thirdly 1886 in Davenport, Iowa, Mrs Addie N. Rambow; d. 3 Aug. 1907 in Los Angeles.

Barnabas W. Day attended a local school and Newburgh Academy. On 1 Nov. 1855 he paid $200 to study for one year with John P. Sutton, a dentist at Kingston. When Sutton moved to Brantford in April 1856, Day, with only some six months of training, set up a practice in Kingston. He later described his laboratory equipment as consisting of “a charcoal furnace, anvil, sledge hammer, work bench and a reasonable set of bench tools necessary for gold base plate work, the only material used for artificial dentures at that time,” and his instruments of “a few long handled burs, rotated between thumb and finger . . . , a stud thimble with a cup in the palm of the hand for pressure, [and] . . . a fine set of forceps.” “I felt my way carefully,” he remarked, “and determined to make no mistake, for I knew in my own mind that I was not qualified, but was forced to make up what I did not know with cheek or a bold front.” He also endeavoured to continue his training. When he learned of John Allen’s invention of “continuous gum” for making dentures he went to New York for six weeks to study with him. In 1858 he entered the faculty of medicine at Queen’s College, Kingston, and four years later graduated with an md. lie had joined the volunteer militia battery at Kingston in 1856 and in 1862 was appointed surgeon of the 14th Battalion of Volunteer Militia Rifles. He was on duty with the battalion during the Fenian raids of 1866.

The lack of standards for the practice of dentistry, the number of itinerants with no training who provided dental services, and the disrepute of the profession led to attempts by dentists to place restrictions on those who called themselves by that name. The first bid for regulation in Upper and Lower Canada was made in 1847 by Aldis Bernard* of Montreal, who tried unsuccessfully to have clauses on dentistry included in the act which established the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Lower Canada. In 1860 Charles Brewster, also of Montreal, issued a protest, signed by a number of dentists, including Day, against some of the practices current in the profession. When Brewster also asked other dentists their “opinion as to incorporating the dentists by act of Parliament, and obliging all those who in future may wish to practice in Canada, to pass a proper examination before a Board of Dentists,” he reported that they were unanimously in favour of these measures. By 1866 Day, one of perhaps as many as 175 dentists in Upper Canada, was, in addition, concerned with the inroads the introduction of the use of rubber for dentures was allowing itinerant dentists to make. He wrote to all the “reliable members of the profession . . . from Ottawa to Hamilton” to convene them in Toronto on 3 Jan. 1867. Nine men attended the meeting and Day was in the chair; committees were established to propose legislation for the consideration of the government and to draw up by-laws for an association. A draft of a bill was discussed at a second meeting in July, when the Ontario Dental Association was formed with Day as president. After another meeting in January 1868, to which all practising dentists in the province were invited, a petition signed by 68 dentists and 25 medical doctors was submitted to the Ontario Legislative Assembly. In March “An act respecting dentistry,” the first comprehensive legislation governing the profession in North America, was passed. It established the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario and gave its board authority to establish a school, appoint examiners and professors, determine a curriculum of study, and set examinations, as well as to admit members to the college and the profession. Day was chosen president at the first meeting of the board in April 1868, when he was also the first to be admitted formally to the profession, having practised for at least five years.

In 1872 Day was persuaded by friends to move to Chicago. He returned to Kingston in 1878 but in 1881 he settled in Council Grove, Kans. In 1887 he moved to San Diego, where he obtained a certificate from the Medical Society of the State of California. The next year, when he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, he also took up land in San Diego County and grew walnuts, olives, and fruit. In 1897 he transferred his practice to Los Angeles, where he died in 1907.

Day is considered the architect of organized dentistry in Ontario. The 1868 act which he promoted had an immense impact not only in Canada but also in the United States and other countries.

Anne Dale

Two articles by B. W. Day appear in vol.1 (1868–69) of the Canada Journal of Dental Science (Montreal; Hamilton, Ont.), “Nitrous oxide, or protoxide of nitrogen, as an anæsthetic”: 1, and “An address read before the Dental Association of Ontario, at Toronto, January 21st., 1868”: 37–39. The volume also contains various other items of interest.

Univ. of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry Library, Dental Museum, Biog. file, “Personal notes by B. W. Day, l.d.s., m.d., of Los Angeles Cal., Dec. 26th 1903.” Univ. of Toronto Arch., A82-0003. “B. W. Day, m.d., l.d.s., first president of the ‘Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario,’” Canada Journal of Dental Science (Montreal), 3 (1870–72): 353–54, and portrait facing p.353. W. G. Beers, “Sketch of dentistry in Canada,” Dominion Dental Journal (Toronto), 12 (1900): 225–30. C[harles] Brewster, “Protests against dental exhibitions,” Dominion Dental Journal, 2 (1890): 34–36. Directory, Kingston, 1857/58–67, 1881/82. D. W. Gullett, A history of dentistry in Canada (Toronto, 1971). An illustrated history of southern California . . . (Chicago, 1890), 141. Polk’s dental register and directory of the United States and Canada . . . (Detroit), 1900–1: 75; 1906–7: 105; 1908–9: 105.

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Cite This Article

Anne Dale, “DAY, BARNABAS W,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 26, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/day_barnabas_w_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/day_barnabas_w_13E.html
Author of Article:   Anne Dale
Title of Article:   DAY, BARNABAS W
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   September 26, 2023