1889: Rochester’s First Operating Room #ThrowbackThursday

The painting by F. C. Henselmann depicts the first operating room at Saint Marys Hospital in 1889. From left are Sister Constantine, Dr. William Worrall Mayo, Dr. Charlie Mayo, Edith Graham, Dr. Will Mayo, and Sister Joseph Dempsey. Photo courtesy of the Post-Bulletin.

When Saint Marys Hospital opened on September 30, 1889, it included the city’s first operating room that wasn’t also someone’s bedroom or office.

According to Mayo Clinic history records, the second-floor operating room, which had a bay window facing north for better light, was also equipped with two gaslights. The first operation took place that same day. Dr. Charles H. Mayo performed what may have been the first surgical procedure at the newly constructed Saint Marys Hospital. He was assisted by his brother and father, who administered the anesthetic agent. The operation was to remove a cancerous growth.

Reminiscing about those days, Dr. Will commented, "We were a green crew, and we knew it."

Alyssa Frank

Alyssa Frank is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. She leads marketing strategies for product management and specialty testing. Alyssa has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2015.