A note on this series: In many ways, the story of ophthalmology in Cheyenne is the story of the Cheyenne Eye Clinic. We are proud to be able to trace our practice’s history back through our city’s fine history and to be so deeply rooted in our community. We hope that whether you are a history buff or a patient at our clinic, you will find this history as fascinating as we do.
Cheyenne’s First Eye Doctor: George Strader, MD & His Partners (1903-1938)
In the first half of the 20th century, physicians with an eye specialty most often combined with what is now otolaryngology. So many “eye” doctors practiced as Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors (EENTs – sometimes spoken as “Double E-N-Ts”). These physicians were categorized for decades as Oculist (eye) and Aurist (ear) in Cheyenne business listings.
Over one hundred years of Cheyenne phone books and city directories at the Special Collections Room at the Laramie County Library and the Wyoming State Archives provided an outline of the information about the history of Cheyenne ophthalmology practices. In the first part of the 20th century, some directories were published only every other year. Some spans of time have no directory either published or surviving. However, a good lineage of the doctors and their practices can still be pieced together, although the exact years can only be approximated to within a year, at times.
1903: Cheyenne at the time of Dr. Strader’s Arrival
In the 1902 Cheyenne City Directory, there is no mention of an Oculist or an Aurist. Only fifteen physicians practiced in Cheyenne. Many, if not all of them, were likely general practitioners.
In 1903 the founding father of eye care in Cheyenne arrived from Omaha, Nebraska. George L. Strader, MD, moved to Cheyenne with his wife Alice, and their son, Harold, and daughter, Lillian. He was 33 years old when he set up practice in Cheyenne. Dr. Strader’s pioneering eye practice lineage in Cheyenne continued, without interruption, to become today’s Cheyenne Eye Clinic—the only ophthalmology practice in Cheyenne. He continued practicing as a medical eye doctor in Cheyenne for 35 years.
Another eye doctor was in Cheyenne for just one directory listing. He received his Wyoming medical license in 1906 and must have stayed in Cheyenne less than two years. His name was Charles F. Kieffer, MD, and he practiced at #9-11 Carey Block. He listed himself in the directory as a “physician, surgeon, oculist and aurist.” His wife’s name was Elizabeth and his residence was listed as Fort D. A. Russell (now F.E. Warren Air Force Base). Nothing else is known about him.
At the time of Dr. Strader’s arrival, Cheyenne had just over 10,000 people and the town was less than 35 years old. Cheyenne would have been little developed north of the Capitol building and stretched east only as far as Minnehaha Park, now known as Holliday Park. Cheyenne then had only three banks, thirteen churches, and fourteen places to buy a meal, but had 44 “saloons.” Dirty and muddy streets were the norm— Capitol Avenue was not paved until about 1918. In 1903, no one in Cheyenne owned a car, or had electricity or indoor plumbing in their homes.
Theodore Roosevelt was the U.S. President. In fact, President Roosevelt came to Frontier Days in 1903 and rode in the parade beside Buffalo Bill Cody. This was the same year the Wright Brothers had their first successful air flight and Tom Horn was hanged just two blocks from Dr. Strader’s new office.
Dr. Strader’s Early Office Locations
In 1903, Dr. Strader’s office address was first listed as 2-3 Opera House Block. By 1910 he had set up practice in the First National Bank building, (built in 1907), on the third floor in Room 312. This is the building just north, across the plaza, from the historic depot (The First National Bank failed in 1924. The building is now known as the Majestic Building).
Dr. Strader’s office hours were always listed as 8:30 to 11:30 and 1:00 to 4:00. His first phone number was 193-Y. A live phone operator would have been needed to connect a patient, if they had a phone, with Dr. Strader’s office. Dr. Strader’s office was in the First National Bank location until 1922 when he moved west across the street to the fourth floor of the then 33-old H.P. Hynds Building, Room 408.
Room 408, at the Hynds Building, would remain an eye doctor’s office for almost 30 years (as of this writing the Hynds Building has been vacant since the early 1980s preparing for renovation). The Hynds Building was the office location for a majority of Cheyenne’s physicians in the 1920s and 1930s.
1918: The Practice of Strader & Decker
After practicing alone for nearly fourteen years, Dr. Strader entered his first partnership. In 1918, Jay C. Decker, MD joined Dr. Strader in the First National Bank building. The practice was listed as Strader & Decker. By 1922, Dr. Decker was gone; no longer listed as a doctor in Cheyenne.
Whenever the term “partnership” is used, it is unknown if these early practices were formal legal partnerships or simply doctors that shared office space.
By 1910, Dr. Strader, Cheyenne’s first oculist, moved his practice into the First National Bank Building #312. In 1922, he moved across Capitol Ave to the Hynds Building #408. That suite remained Cheyenne’s only eye doctor office for almost 30 years. This drawing, an old postcard, is from the depot’s tower perspective looking north towards the Capitol.
1919–1938: The Practice of Strader, Beck & Lucic
By 1919, a new partner began that stayed until the end of Dr. Strader’s career. Frederick L. Beck, MD came from the same practice that Dr. Strader had practiced in Omaha, Nebraska. He came with his wife, Lillian, and their five children when he was 47 years old. Strader & Beck were in practice together nineteen years through what was known nationally as the Roaring ‘20s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. The practice was called Strader & Beck. Dr. Beck lost a leg due to blood poisoningcaused by a medical procedure accident while helping a patient in 1923.
About 1927, Hugo L. Lucic, MD began working at the same address as Strader & Beck. It is not clear if Dr. Lucic was ever a partner since the name of the practice remains listed as Strader & Beck the entire time Dr. Lucic was in Cheyenne. However, according to a biography piece written by Dr. Beck’s daughter, she referred to the practice as Strader, Beck & Lucic. About 1938, after ten years, Dr. Lucic was no longer listed in the Cheyenne directories.
About 1926, Myron L. Babcock, MD was an Oculist in the Boyd Building. He did not appear to be as- sociated with Strader & Beck or Lucic. Two years later his name no longer appeared in the city directory. Dr. Babcock received his Wyoming medical license in 1914. It is unknown in what other Wyoming commu- nity he practiced before coming to Cheyenne twelve years later.
George Leslie Strader, MD, the first eye physician in Cheyenne, died on January 21, 1938 a month after his 67th birthday. It was a front page story in the Cheyenne newspaper. Dr. Strader had entered semi-retirement just four months earlier as a result of poor health. He was staying in California to recu- perate from a cerebral hemorrhage, where he died one day before he and his wife were planning to return to Cheyenne.
Dr. Strader, Cheyenne’s first medical specialist, was a well known civic leader. He served as the president of the state medical society, a member of the 1915 legislature as a state representative, a member of the state board of health, and a member of many other organizations. His grave, along with the graves of his family, is in Cheyenne’s Lakeview Cemetery.