Guide to the Adolph Herff Papers, 1858 - 1952
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.
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.
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.
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Some materials are very brittle or torn on the edges and may require an electronic copy or photocopy for use.
[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.
Received as part of donation of manuscripts and historical books from Bexar County Medical Society Library in 1970.
Finding aid created by: Anne Comeaux, July 2011
Detailed Description of Collection