Historical medical displays at library bring the past to life

Dennis Dvorak, President

New Prague Area Historical Society

New Prague has always had an active medical community. From the earliest days, New Prague has had access to medical care and a doctor. Today, New Prague continues as an important and vital medical center, serving the needs of our local and rural community.

The items on display at the New Prague Library have been generously lent to draw attention to various historical aspects of New Prague's medical community and the history of medicine in general.

Physicians serving the community began with Dr. Landenberger who first practiced in St. Benedict and later moved to New Prague, with an office above the original State Bank of New Prague building on Main Street. He was followed by Drs. Haberich, McCarthy, Kucera and Maertz. Later, Dr. Charles Cervenka arrived from Lonsdale and, for a brief time, worked with Dr. E.E. Novak.

Dr. Cervenka and Dr. Elmer Doherty established an office together after World War II. Dr. E. Roger Rynda, a New Prague native, also established a practice in New Prague around the same period.

The list of physicians serving our community has grown significantly. One reason is the presence of Queen of Peace Hospital. The hospital originally began in 1924 as Community Memorial Hospital in the Harvey Mansion. By 1950, a new hospital was constructed and later, when the hospital began to face financial difficulty, the Sisters of St. Benedict took over hospital operations in 1952.

The large wooden display case in the Komarek Room displays items from Dr. Novak's practice. Dr. Novak arrived in 1895 from Iowa and established his practice above the Remes Apothecary Store, across the street from The New Prague Times office in the corner brick building.

Dr. Novak made house calls on his bicycle and later by horse and buggy. The display case also has an apothecary container with ingredients for making medicines that originally came from the Remes Drug Store. Notice, Dr. Novak also ran for governor.

The items in the portable display case in the library proper are items that would have been found in local drug stores. Remes Drug store was the earliest store offering medicinal remedies. The Piesinger sisters also established a drug store and sold, in addition to pharmaceutical items, luxury items for the home due to the wealthy milling families moving to the community. Later, the Layne family purchased the pharmacy from the Piesinger sisters who, by now, moved their business to Northfield.

The large display case in the Komarek Room displays pharmaceutical items on the top left shelf. Druggists during the early years made the medicines in the store. Glass containers instead of plastic containers were used for storage of ingredients. Tin was the common material in which over-the-counter medicines were sold.

The shelf immediately below displays surgical tools captured from a Japanese ship during World War II near the Aleutian Islands, off the coast of Alaska.

The bottom shelf contains a display of Dr. Charles Cervenka's home delivery bag and its contents. Before a hospital was established and mothers encouraged to come to the hospital to deliver their babies, deliveries were assisted at home. Additional items from Dr. Cervenka's office are also on display.

The items on the top right shelf and the shelf immediately below display medical and surgical tools used before and during the Civil War period. New Prague was founded in 1856, and it would not have been uncommon for our earliest doctors to have used similar surgical tools. The tools were beautiful and effective in their applications to medical procedures.

A presentation in May, sponsored by the New Prague Area Historical Society, will discuss the items on display and their history. We hope you can attend.

Look for dates and times in an upcoming issue of The New Prague Times and postings in the local library.

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