PRESENTATION GIVEN BY DR. LUDLOW BEAMISH, Historian for the Associated Ferrier Study Clubs, May 10, 1996 Seattle, Washington

What Does The Associated Ferrier Club Mean To Me?

Black, in his treatise on restorative dentistry did give a very significant start to cavity outline form and the necessity for precise interior cavity design. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century however that groups of men came together to refine and systematize specifically gold foil procedures. In 1898 in St Paul a new venture was started, the formation of the G.V. Black study club. Seven years later a member of this original club, Dr. Woodbury, organized a second study club to be named after his father. These two study clubs were innovative and gave to dentistry a fresh idea of continuing education. They stimulated a new select group of the profession to seek refinement and excellent.

In 1907, on the West Coast, the concept of a study club took root in Seattle. News of the St Paul experiment drifted out west, and on the 26th of October a half dozen enthusiastic dentists gathered and on that evening and organized the Odontological Study Club Of Seattle. Their wish was to follow the G.V. Black pattern of study club activity.

In the early years the club met every two weeks, and later every three weeks. They had no recognized leader, only their enthusiasm to seek improvement in their service. The initiation fee was $5.00 and the annual dues were $1.00. Like us today they started by cutting cavities in plaster models, and then extracted teeth. The preparations were presented to all for observation and criticism. Point angles, line angles, depth of cavity, outline form, all of these matters came under their interest and critical scrutiny. The club gained recognition in the profession and in 1909 was asked to present a clinic before a larger gathering. This was done in March, and I think it is possible that this was the first ever gold-foil clinic to have been presented. The operator was Dr. Reynolds, what a stirr this must have caused!

The club originally functioned without a recognized leader. It was the members tremendous enthusiasm that kept them going. These few dentists were virtually thirsting for information that would lead to improvements in their profession.

After four years of very casual organization, in 1912 the group decided to seek formal instruction. Drs. Wedelstadt and Searle of St Paul were gaining remarkable recognition in their mastery of gold-foil. They were invited to venture west to Seattle. The plan was to have Wedelstadt and Searle present a two weeks "hands-on" intensive clinical course. It took place in August, and at this course a certain young W.I. Ferrier participated. The group saw a standard of dentistry that truly shook them, such standards of clinical excellence they did not realize could be achieved. So profoundly impressed was our Seattle group that a repeat performance was arranged for the following year in September.

By this time the nebulous Odontological Study Club was re-organized and renamed the Seattle Dental Study Club. While it did study other aspects of dentistry, it soon became apparent that gold-foil presented the major challenge and interest.

It was not until 1923 that the club members realized that to be truly effective in promoting knowledge and excellence the club must have a leader. This caused great concern, who among them would be sufficiently respected to accept this challenge? Upon Dr Frank Hergert's recommendation and persuasion the young Dr. Ferrier was given the appointment. Ferrier's skill, leadership qualities and general knowledge quickly became generally recognized and he became the unquestioned authority for the group. Quickly he embarked on giving his own gold-foil courses, and under his leadership and with the support of the Seattle Study Club, new gold-foil clubs were brought into being. It is this Seattle Study Club and Dr. Ferrier that has together provided the leadership for what is now called the Associated Ferrier Study Clubs. Now who was this extraordinary individual, Dr. Walden Ferrier?

In 1886 in the little Washington town of Vander there was born to a modest family a baby boy, who would be named Walden I. Ferrier. He was an average boy, graduated from high school, found his way to North Pacific College in Portland, and from this institution received his D.M.D. in 1908. As a dental student he displayed special operative skills.

Leaving the big city of Portland, he found temporary accommodations for an office in a hotel in Burlington. He remained in Burlington until 1919 and then on to Seattle. He spent a short time in the Navy, but soon returned to private practice.

Ferrier was the type of individual that talented men gravitate to. Soon he befriended two very intelligent and gifted people, Wedelstadt and Hallenback. He was stimulated by them and they encouraged him to conduct research on cavity design and instrumentation.

In 1930 while Ferrier was in Los Angeles visiting Hollenbach, he met, through the later, a certain Otto Suter, an itinerant instrument maker. So impressed was Ferrier with Suter that he persuaded him to come to Seattle, and there to spend some time with him. With Otto, Otto's son Bo, the three men put their talents together and commenced what was to be a long and at times, stormy relationship. This association would persist throughout Ferrier's life. They had a mutual interest in refining cutting instruments, and this lead on to clamps, like the #212, and then to separators. We accept these Ferrier devices now so very casually, but if we reflect on the matter we begin to appreciate how complex it must have been actually to lay down on paper a design for the separators. In reading some of the Ferrier-Stibbs correspondence there are many references to the difficulties encountered in trying to persuade the S.S. White company to produce what Ferrier was demanding. But it is through his desire for exactness and excellence that we have today hand instruments, clamps and separators that have just not been equaled anywhere else in the world.

Ferrier's interest in instruments lead him to thinking about the possibility of cavity refinement. As an instructor he showed how outline form could be made vastly more esthetic, how precise internal cavity form would make filling the cavity easier and would contribute to a more permanent restoration. How sharp point angles and sharp line angles, and meticulously planed walls would contribute vastly to the excellence of the gold-foil restoration. Here indeed, in the person of W.I. Ferrier, was a singular operator who did, and would continue to modify, our concept of the very finish in dental restorative endeavor.

As I mentioned before in 1923, Ferrier was appointed the "Master of Clinics" of the reorganized and renamed Seattle Dental Study Club. In the following year in September, Ferrrier presented his first two week course of instruction. This was his course, lead and given by him, and with it he established himself as the unquestioned leader in the West of all gold-foil endeavors. Having established himself, and now being accepted as the gold-foil authority, it was only a matter of a very short time before new clubs would be started, but organized as Ferrier and his select group chose to do it. Anyone could organize a study club, but to be one of the select Ferrier group was quite a different matter. To be taught by Ferrier and his select group, unofficially referred to by some as Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles, this new group must comply with the Ferrier demands for membership. Ferrier would appoint himself or one of his chosen instructors to teach, he with the Seattle Study Club would lay down the obligations for membership. These obligations were clear and well defined. Regular attendance at meetings must be a members priority, willingness to operate and submit one's clinical work to criticism of both the mentor and the membership. Each group as it came into being would be an exclusive group, committed to the highest standards, and very aware that they had been admitted to a new band of operators where membership was a distinct privilege. Ferrier clubs were not organized to become mutual admiration societies.

By 1930 the few gold-foil study clubs in Washington organized a rather loose association called Associated Gold Foil Study Clubs. It was made up of a Board of Trustees, this comprising 2 executive members from each club, and a Mentor's Council. This latter group, directed by Ferrier, appointed instructors and made the necessary arrangements for new courses. The "Association" organized an annual gathering and clinical session, the time being devoted to matters pertinent to gold-foil. For many years W. I. Ferrier was the principle speaker. It was not until Ferrier's retirement in 1949 that the Association became known as the Associated Ferrier Study Club, this was to honour it's founder.

During the time that Ferrier enjoyed good health, until about 1950, he dominated gold foil study. He was skilled, brilliant, demanding, and certainly behaved as a "prima donna". He did not appreciate having his concepts questioned. At one time one of the very talented study club member, Dr. Jeffrey, suggested a modification for a class III preparation. His idea was to design an invisible class III, it was an excellent design, and in competent hands it worked. Ferrier resented this modification, and in no uncertain terms told Jeffrey. Not long after the Jeffrey modification was made, a group asked Dr. Jeffrey to become their mentor. Would Ferrier accept this? A resounding NO! To participate in a Ferrier club, W.I.'s design and principles must be taught. There was no room for compromise or modification. Jeffrey and Ferrier parted company on rather strained terms.

Another example of Ferrier's intolerance took place shortly after Gerry Stibbs had been appointed to head up "Restorative" at the new School of Dentistry at the U of W. This appointment came largely on the recommendation of Ferrier and Jones. One afternoon shortly after the School was opened Gerry was watching Ferrier and another dentist in conversation not far away. He sensed they were talking about him. Gerry being a very forthright and open individual walked over. The conversation stopped. "Come on now" said Gerry, "obviously you were talking about me".

"Yes", said Ferrier, "I don't like your policy of teaching these young students to use anesthetic. By using "local" the operator is completely unaware of the depth of his cut. A school clinic is no place to be using local anesthetics."

Gerry had the greatest respect for Dr. Ferrier, but he, Stibbs, was running the clinic and not Dr. Ferrier. "I have thought a lot about this matter and my decision stands. My students are going to be trained with the most modern equipment, and with the most modern and up to date procedures." And that settled the issue. Dr. Ferrier was no amused, but to his credit this confrontation did not terminate their friendship.

I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Ferrier. I have chatted with him, but I never knew him intimately. When in his presence one was very aware that the man to whom you were speaking was certainly a man apart from others. He surrounded himself and befriended only a very few. Among his closest friends were George Ellsperman, Walter Sproule, Floyd Hamstrom, Bruce Smith and of course Gerry Stibbs. This caterie of highly skilled and exceptionally intelligent men literally worshiped the ground he walked upon. In this intensely democratic age in which we live today, where "all men are supposedly equal", we find it difficult to appreciate the adulation and incredible respect these men gave to Dr. Ferrier.

I have gone through much of the Ferrier-Stibbs correspondence. Obviously both men had the greatest respect for each other, but it is evident that even Gerry, whose reputation was and is unassailable, usually addressed the great man as Dr. Ferrier. While the latter usually opened the letter with "Dear Gerry."

How fortunate we are to have had Dr. Stibbs to serve as the bridge between the exclusivity and eliteness of Ferrier philosophy for study club activity, and the intensely democratic and laissez-fair attitude of today. Gerry was demanding, but he was also aware that attitudes were changing, and that today members wish to have more input into the conduct of their study clubs.

The democratization that has become so all pervasive in today's world has had it's effect upon study club activities. Presently clubs make it known about their objectives and purpose, and openly welcome new members. The formation of new study clubs is encouraged. The concept of elitism is being down played. Today the opportunities for continuing education are legion and readily available. I think in the overall picture of our profession this shift in attitude of welcoming and encouraging continuing education with our confreres has benefited dentistry tremendously. When I think of the general standard of operative dentistry today , with that of 50 years ago, the change is shocking--

no, it's staggering. Today it is the "in thing" to be a study club member. This renewed enthusiasm for continuing education through study club activity has helped to improve the general standard of dentistry immeasurably.

Yes, some men work remarkably well in solitude, this applies to only a select few. Man is basically a social animal, working with others is mutually stimulating. Our coming together to chat and fraternize is supportive to us. We see what others are doing, we share their problems, and we exchange ideas. Are there any special secrets to making compound stick? Is it possible to modify the jaws of a "212" and how do you do it? What if any, are the advantages of hand rolled over mechanically rolled gold? What choices are there in the different gold foils? What are the pluses and minuses in hand malleting, are you having problems in procuring finishing strips? How can we improve our intra-oral photography, and a multiplicity of other matters that are of general interest. In our Associated Ferrier Study Club meetings we have papers presented on specific problems and subjects by individuals who just may know more about that special subject than you or I. This contact between ourselves, listening to papers, viewing slides and the general discussion that follows, bit by bit increases our knowledge and broadens our professional horizon. We leave the meeting having, as it were, our batteries re-charged. And let us not forget the fraternal benefits too. Friendships are strengthened, new bonds of friendship are established and more often than not we return home with a wonderfully warm feeling of well-being. This is what the Associated Ferrier Study Club organization means for us.

Dr Ferrier and Dr. Stibbs were not responsible for inventing the concept of study clubs. But once established, both of these remarkable men contributed significantly to the effectiveness of the Study Club movement. Unfortunately none of us lives for ever, and now that they are no longer with us, it is fitting that we remember them with respect and affection.

In the Vancouver Ferrier G.F. Study Club there was a member, Dr. William Miller. He had a flare for poetry and was often affectionately referred to as the deacon or the poet laureate. Some fifteen years ago he wrote a few verses to express the member's appreciation for the leadership his club had received. With a few modifications I quote Bill's poem as a tribute to W.I. Ferrier, and to Gerry Stibbs.


Walden I. Ferrier, D.M.D


Today we honour two famous men,

A time for serious thought,

As once again we reflect and view

The notable things they wrought.


Some men have born within them

The spark of something great

That, in spite of human frailties,

Comes forward soon or late.


They are endowed with a greater skill

Than the average run of men.

This makes them stand above the crowd,

But it does not finish then.


They hold a wider vision,

Beyond their immediate field.

They use their skill as a starting point

For a greater force to wield.


They touch the lives of other men,

And other men respond

In ever-widening circles

Like the ripples on a pond.


I read the names of a hundred men,

Who came within their sphere.

Each one is leading a fuller life

Because these men were here.


This is the real immortal spark,

The greatest gift by far.

In truth "Peace hath her victories

No less renowned than war."


William Miller, D.M.D.

Vancouver Ferrier Study Club


A tribute on the occasion of the

Fiftieth anniversary meeting of the

Associated Ferrier Study Clubs

Seattle, May 9, 1980


*Digitized and made Web available by Dr. Von Hanks & Dr. John R. Sechena

*Any additions or corrections send to Dr Von Hanks & Dr. John R. Sechena