JAMES BIRD CUTTER, M. D.
An eminent representative of the medical profession in San Francisco, and a practitioner of long and varied experience,
is Dr. James Bird Cutter, who is now the medical director of the Children's Hospital of this city. He is a native
of New York city, his birth having occurred August 8, 1867, and he is a son of the late Dr. James Bird and Catherine
Swift (Trow) Cutter.
Dr. James Bird Cutter was a member of the first class to graduate from Long Island Hospital College, the class
having been advanced in order that its members might enter the service of the Union in the Civil war. He was in
the medical corps of the army throughout the struggle, and after the close of hostilities he engaged in the general
practice of medicine in Newark, New Jersey. A career of brilliant promise was prematurely ended by his death in
1876, when he was only thirty six years of age. His wife, Catherine Swift (Trow) Cutter, was a daughter of John
F. Trow, a prominent New Yorker and of distinguished family connections. Her death occurred in 1907, when she was
sixty seven years old.
Dr. James B. Cutter, the immediate subject of this review, studied during his early years under a governess and
private tutors in East Lyme, New London county, Connecticut, and also at Seabury Institute in Saybrook, Connecticut.
He then became associated with the business of his maternal grandfather, John F. Trow, who was one of the leading
printers and publishers of his day in New York city. At that time, he issued the official directory of the eastern
metropolis. In 1885, Dr. Cutter went to Chicago, Illinois, where he joined the publishing company of Belford, Clarke
& Company. In addition to publishing books, this concern conducted several book departments in department stores
of Chicago. Dr. Cutter later became a member of this firm, and had charge of its affairs in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
until 1888. At this time, the company suffered reverses, and he returned to New York, and in 1889 came to California
with the determination to study medicine and to follow the profession of his honored father. He went to Portland,
Oregon, and for a period studied under the guidance. of Dr. Saylor, after which he entered the University of Oregon
and from this institution received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1893. For one year thereafter he obtained much
valuable practical experience as house surgeon at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland. He then returned to
New York and, through the appointment of Professor Louis A. Stimson, father of Hon. Henry L. Stimson, present national
secretary of state, he was appointed to a position on the house staff of the Chambers Street Hospital in that city.
This New York hospital was the second hospital established in America by royal charter from George III of England,
the date of its origin having been 1771. In 1895, Dr. Cutter went back to Portland, Oregon, where he formed a very
valuable friendship with William S. Ladd, whose advice and kindly counsel were of great benefit to him. Later he
served as county physician of Custer county, Idaho, where he endured the hardships of frontier life. His territory
covered an area of seventy five by thirty miles, a total of two thousand, two hundred and twenty five square miles,
and this had to be traversed in all sorts of weather by horseback and in a stage coach. It was arduous service,
his operations having been performed on occasions by placing the patient on the kitchen table under the uncertain
rays of a lamp. The hardships endured, however, were worth much, for they gave him courage and an outlook on life
which aided him through the subsequent years.
When the United States declared war against Spain in 1898, Dr. Cutter joined the army with the rank of captain
in the volunteer medical corps. He served as surgeon in charge of the hospital on Alcatraz Island off San Francisco,
and was assistant post surgeon at the Presidio. He continued in this work until 1901, following which his next
step was to take up private practice in Mill Valley, Margin county, California. After this phase of his career,
and through the influence of Dr. George Goodfellow of San Francisco, he was appointed chief surgeon of the Cananea
Copper Company in Cananea, Mexico, but on account of his wife's health he was compelled to resign. He was then
appointed as surgeon in charge of the Santa Fe Railroad hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he remained
from 1902 until 1907. While in this position, he erected the excellent modern hospital building now in use. He
returned to New York in 1907, owing to the death of his mother, and it was his intention to retire and live on
land to be acquired in California. On coming back to this state, however, he was named as surgeon in charge of
the Crocker Street Hospital in Los Angeles. After the death of Dr. Wing, assistant chief surgeon of the Santa Fe
Railroad, Dr. Cutter was appointed to fill this important position. Later, he resigned for the purpose of purchasing
some seventy acres of land near Watsonville, California, which he developed into an ideal country estate, with
apples and strawberries as his principal crops, and he lived here in retirement for six years.
In 1918, when the scourge of influenza swept the country, and doctors were sorely needed, owing to the absence
of so many men in the service of the United States and the rapid spread of the epidemic, Dr. Cutter again took
up his professional duties. He assisted in establishing a hospital in Watsonville, and in the same year was appointed
executive surgeon of the Southern Pacific General Hospital in San Francisco, where he continued until 1921. In
the year following, he was appointed to his present position as medical director of the Children's Hospital in
San Francisco, situated at 3700 California street. He has done remarkable work during his regime at the head of
this noted institution, and has superintended the building of an addition costing a half million dollars. The hospital
is for women and children, and has accommodations for three hundred and twenty five patients. The nurses' training
school in connection was the third one established in the United States. The hospital is a benevolent institution,
and does over one hundred and twenty thousand dollars worth of free service every year. Hospital service and rooms
are very moderately priced for those who can pay. The work of this fine institution is directed principally to
the great middle class of citizens, and the most reputable doctors of San Francisco have welcome access to its
facilities. Dr. Cutter has always maintained a strong interest in the affairs of his profession. He belongs to
the San Francisco, the California State, and the American Medical Associations; the Association of Military Surgeons;
the California Academy of Medicine; the Oregon State Medical Association; the Idaho State Medical Association;
the Northern California Pediatric Society; the Santa Cruz County Medical Society; the New Mexico State Medical
Association (honorary); and the Pacific Association of Railroad Surgeons, of which latter he is one of the originators.
He is on the executive committee of the Children's Hospital Association of America. These numerous affiliations
indicate the wide reputation Dr. Cutter has acquired in his work, and the extensive scope of his interests therein.
He has won much praise for his accomplishments, including a letter of commendation from Surgeon General Forwood
of the United States Army.
Dr. Cutter has been twice married. On the 28th of October, 1897, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he wedded Lilla Merrick
Yeatman, a member of a prominent family of that state, and brought his bride back west with him to Custer county,
Idaho, where he was at that time county physician. She passed away in February, 1925, and on the 12th of April,
1926, Dr. Cutter was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Edith L. Milburn of San Francisco. They are
the parents of one son, James Trow Cutter, and Mrs. Cutter has a daughter, Meredith Milburn, by a former marriage.
The San Francisco home of the family is at 3837 Jackson street, and in addition the Doctor still maintains his
excellent country place near Watsonville, called Interlaken Orchards, where some twenty people are employed in
the raising of apples and strawberries. He is now much interested in the development of this country home into
a beautiful residential park, suburban to Watsonville.
The political support of Dr. Cutter has been accorded to the republican party, and his religious affiliation is
with the Catholic Church, to the faith of which he is a recent convert. He is a member of the Commonwealth Club
of San Francisco. He has held a progressive attitude toward civic matters in the bay district, and has generously
lent his cooperation wherever his judgment dictated, being a member of the hospital council and the health council
of the city of San Francisco.
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931
San Francisco, CA
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