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Obituary of Dr. Alvah Hunt Doty


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Dr. Alvah H. Doty Dies in 80th Year
Health Officer of Port for 17 Years
Led in Staten Island Fight on Mosquitos
Western Union Official
Retired Medical Director of the Telegraph Concern
Centre of Bitter Controversy in 1911.
Special to The New York Times

Pelham Manor, N.Y., May 27, 1934. – Dr. Alvah H. Doty, who was Health Officer of the Port of New York from 1895 to 1912 and from 1913 until his retirement last year medical director of the Western Union Telegraph company, died here today at his home, 1001 Monterey Avenue, from the effects of a stroke suffered Wednesday night. He would have been 80 years old on July 27.

Dr. Alvah H. Doty

The near relatives who survive are a widow, his second wife, who was Blanche Rees of Pittsburgh at their marriage in 1901; a son, Alvah H. Jr. of New York, by his first marriage; a brother, County Judge L.R. Doty, and two sisters, Mrs. Frederick Youngs and Mrs. Eugene Schesser, all of Geneseo. Funeral services will be held at the house at 3:30 P.M. Tuesday. Burial will take place in Geneseo.

Had Early Military Training

Dr. Doty was born in Albany, and was graduated from high school there. Intending at first to become a soldier he completed the course of the Rochester Military Academy before turning his mind to medicine. In 1878 he received his M.D. from Bellevue Hospital Medial College and the same year began his long career as a guardian of public health.

Appointed an inspector on the staff of the Health Officer of the Port he subsequently was made diagnostician of the New York Board of Health, and then chief of its Bureau of Contagious Diseases. During this early period he also was active in the militia, serving as surgeon with the Ninth Regiment, N.Y.N.G., with the rank of major.

Governor Morton first appointed Dr. Doty Health Officer of the New York on Jan. 2, 1895, and he received his last reappointment on Feb. 28, 1907, at a salary of $12,000 a year. The Governor commented that the reappointment was justified by the efficient service Dr. Doty had given the people in the past.

A note of the Governor's secretary, Robert H. Fuller, made public at the time, recounted in part that:

"Previous to Dr. Doty's original appointment the quarantine regulations had been managed in such a way that New York City was often threatened with contagious diseases brought in through the port. Dr. Doty's management of infectious and quarantinable diseases has prevented the recurrence of such dangers."

Quarantine System Praised

Further testimony to the efficiency of Dr. Doty's administration was furnished by a special commission sent to the world's leading ports, which concluded that the system of quarantine under Dr. Doty was the best in the world. Besides his work in guarding Americans from diseases brought by immigrants, Dr. Doty added immensely to the metropolis by ridding Staten Island of mosquitos (sic), an ancient pest which he combated successfully in a six-year campaign.

Yet in 1911 Governor John A. Dix appointed a commissioner, Charles N. Bulger, to investigate the business and affairs of the office of the health officer, and as a result of the adverse findings of Mr. Bulger and the governor's acceptance of them, Dr. Doty relinquished his position the following February. He declined to resign, but his term of office had expired some months before and the governor appointed another man in his place. Commissioner Bulger began his inquiry in June and filed a voluminous report the following December finding that the methods of keeping accounts and records of business transactions in the Health officer were "primitive, obsolete, unsystematic and altogether unreliable," and that Dr. Doty had "failed utterly to maintain an efficient quarantine at the port of New York."

Supported by Medical Academy

In direct contrast to the opinion of Commissioner Bulger was the resolution adopted on Dec. 13 at the New York Academy of Medicine and sent to Governor Dix. It strongly supported Dr. Doty and urged his retention in office. The resolution was signed by a score of the leading physicians in the United States, men who were familiar as experts with the subject in controversy. Among the signers were Drs. Walter B. James, W. Elman Thompson, Simon Flexner, William H. Park, Hermann M. Biggs, John W. Brannan, Alexander Lambert, William K. Draper, Charles L. Dana, George M. Brewer, Alexander Smith and W.M. Polk.

In January, 1913, Theodore N. Vail announced the appointment of Dr. Doty as medical director of the Employes (sic) Benefit Fund Committee of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Western Electric company. The previous November these companies had made public a pension and sick-benefit plan for their 175,000 employes (sic), supported by a fund of $10,000,000. To this work, which included as perhaps its most important element that of health protection, Dr. Doty devoted the remainder of his career.

In the World War period Dr. Doty was a member of the subcommittee on welfare work of the advisory commission of the Council of National Defense. He was a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, a member of the American and State Medical Societies, the Calumet and Republican Clubs.

Of the measures for preserving one's health Dr. Doty ranked walking at the top, or near it. He regarded walking superior to any other way of stretching the muscles and expanding the lungs in the open air, and expressed his views in a book, "Walking for Health," published in 1924.


(sic) = Stands for "Spelling is correct" and identifies that the spelling of the word found before this acronym in the above text is correctly spelled as shown in the original published article.



For a genealogy of Alvah Hunt Doty, see the family trees at Rootsweb.


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