Frederick J. Bancroft, M.D. (1834-1903)

Honoring the People Who Created What We've Inherited

Dr. Frederick Bancroft created Denver's public health system during the late 19th century despite the apathy of city officials. Like Dr. Florence Sabin in the 20th century, he was single-minded and never gave up.

During the 1940s, Dr. Sabin found out that she had to go directly to the people of Colorado and ask them to pressure the Colorado legislature to do what was needed to protect the health of Coloradans — just as during the 1870s Dr. Bancroft and the Denver Medical Association learned that they had to make their case in the newspapers if they were to have any chance of getting the city council to do what was necessary to protect the health of Denver residents.

Frederick Bancroft, MD, and Florence Sabin, MD, were notable creators of the humanitarian healthcare tradition that Coloradans have received as an inheritance.

Part One — 1834-1869

Frederick J. Bancroft was born in Enfield, Connecticut, on May 25, 1834. He received his MD from the University of Buffalo in 1861 and then served as a surgeon in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was 6'4" tall, his weight was in the 325-350-pound range, he had a great sense of humor, and his peers never had to guess what he was thinking.

Frederick J. Bancroft, M.D., Denver, Colorado On June 1, 1866, Dr. Bancroft, 29, arrived in Denver, where he established a private practice and quickly became the town's default physician-in-charge for more than a decade.

Henly W. Allen, MD, who had been practicing in Boulder since 1864, wrote this in 1906: "In the summer of 1866 I well remember being a witness for the people in a poisoning case, which was taken to Denver, on a change of venue from the district court of Boulder county . . . .

"I was stopping at the old Planters' House. In the morning, when the overland stage came in from Omaha, a very striking character alighted from the coach. He was a large, heavy set man, wearing a linen duster and low plug hat, both of which were begrimed and covered with dust, so that it would keep one guessing to tell the nationality of this newcomer. This was Dr. F.J. Bancroft as he was first seen in Denver . . . .

Dr. Bancroft was:

  • Arapahoe County physician (1866-1869)
  • Denver City physician (1872-1876 and 1877-1878)
  • President of the Board of Education of East Denver (1872-1876)
  • One of the first two staff physicians at St. Vincent's Hospital, which in 1876 became St. Joseph's Hospital
  • President of the Colorado Territorial Board of Health (February-August 1876)
  • First president of the State Board of Health (1876-1878)
  • Founder of the State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado (1879)
  • President of the Colorado State Medical Society (1880)
  • One of the founders and original faculty members of Colorado's first medical school — the University of Denver and Colorado Seminary Medical Department (1881)
On October 21, 1866, Dr. Frederick J. Bancroft accepted the first of those public service positions — he became Arapahoe County physician (1866-1869).

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