UT Health Science Center San Antonio

Guide to the Adolph Herff Papers, 1858 - 1952

Descriptive Summary and Abstract

Creator Herff, Adolph, 1858 - 1952
Title: Adolph Herff Papers, 1858 - 1952
Inclusive dates: 1879-1950
Abstract: The Adolph Herff Papers include the transcript of an oral history with nephew August Herff, several bound books with notes from medical school classes, and a ledger of professional expenses.
Identification: MS 11
Extent: 1 box, 6 linear inches.
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, UTHSC Libraries, University Archives, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900

Biographical Note

Dr. Adolph Herff was a noted San Antonio surgeon who practiced in San Antonio for fifty-five years. He was born July 30, 1858, in San Antonio, Texas, the fourth son of another famous Texas surgeon, Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig von Herff, a pioneer surgeon who first came to Texas from Germany in 1847, settling in San Antonio in 1850. Adolph performed his first surgery when he was only 12 years old, stitching up the bleeding scalp laceration of a drunken man lying in a gutter, surrounded by a crowd of incredulous people. His early education was obtained at the old German-English School and the Austin Military Institute in San Antonio, followed by attending a pre-medical course at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He received his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1880 then completed an additional semester of practical work in Philadelphia hospitals.

Dr. Herff returned to San Antonio and began practice with his father, an association which lasted over a quarter of a century. He married Wilhelmina Kalteyer, and they had 3 children, Adolph Paul, Ferdinand Peter, and Amy Clothilde. His surgical practice began just at the dawn of modern bacteriology and surgery. He was the first surgeon in San Antonio to use rubber gloves and catgut in the operating room. He did the first gastroenterostomy, the first total gastrectomy, the first prostatectomy and probably the first appendectomy in Southwest Texas. He lived at a time when bedside diagnosis was an art, depending on observation and common sense as mechanical and laboratory aids were few, yet he was an exact diagnostician. He was a charter member of the American College of Surgeons and performed his last operation in 1933. When he retired from medical practice, he moved to Boerne, Texas where he died February 19, 1952.

His son Ferdinand P. Herff, his nephew John B. Herff, his nephew August F. Herff, and numerous other members of the Herff family were also physicians and surgeons, continuing the Herff family medical tradition.


Nixon, Pat Ireland. A century of medicine in San Antonio : the story of medicine in Bexar County, Texas. San Antonio, Tex: Privately published by the author, 1936.

Herff, Ferdinand Peter. The Doctors Herff : a Three-Generation Memoir / edited by Laura L. Barber. San Antonio, Trinity University Press, 1973.

Scope and Contents

The Herff papers contain Adolph Herff's student notebooks, a ledger for professional expenses, and the transcript of an oral history interview with grandson, Dr. August Ferdinand Herff.


Arrangement of Collection

The papers are arranged in one box in one series of seven items consisting of one folder and five bound ledgers or notebooks.


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use. Materials may be viewed in the reading room of the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, located on the 5th floor of the Briscoe Library at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Physical Access

Some materials are very brittle or torn on the edges and may require an electronic copy or photocopy for use.

Index Terms

Herff, Adolph, 1858-1952
Herff, August Ferdinand, 1898-1993
Von Herff, Ferdinand Ludwig, 1820-1912
History of Medicine – Texas
Physicians – Texas
Rain and rainfall - Texas

Related Material

Herff and Duerler Families Papers, 1853-1995, Col 10441, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio, Texas.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], in the Adolph Herff Papers, MS 11, University Archives, UTHSC Libraries, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.


These papers were donated in 1970 to the library of the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio by the Bexar County Medical Society.

Collection History

Received as part of donation of manuscripts and historical books from Bexar County Medical Society Library in 1970.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by: Anne Comeaux, July 2011

Detailed Description of Collection


Series 1. Personal Papers and Miscellaneous Items

Box Item
MS 11 1 Transcript from Institute of Texan Cultures of oral history interview with Dr. August Ferdinand Herff, nephew of Adolph Herff, October 27, 1983.
1 folder
2 Article entitled “Ferdinand Herff” by M. J. Bliem, M.D.
Source and date unknown. In folder with transcript.
3 Physiology notes/handouts.
Notebook with typewritten sheets fastened with brads.
4 Herff, Adolph. Notes Taken in 1879-1880 at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. Lectures on Practice, Materia Medica, Surgery, Obstetrics, etc.
Bound journal with handwritten pages.
5 Herff, Adolph. Notes on Materia Medica, Surgery, Obstetrics, etc.
Bound journal with handwritten pages.
6 Herff, Adolph. Chemistry Notebook. W. & L. U., Ca. 1880.
Bound journal with handwritten pages.
7 Ledger for Professional Expenses, 1933 - 1938.
Bound ledger with handwritten pages.
Also contains record of rainfall amounts from 1926 – 1950 by day with monthly and annual summaries. Not known whether they are for Boerne ranch or San Antonio.