Skip to main content
URMC / Libraries / Basil G. Bibby Library / History / Papers of Harvey Burkhart

Papers of Harvey Burkhart


Photo of Harvey Burkhart sittingHarvey Burkhart, DDS (1864-1946) was the first Director of the Rochester Dental Dispensary, now known as Eastman Dental, serving from 1916 to 1946. Two of Burkhart’s passions were preventive dentistry and orthodontics; he practiced both, and utilized his clinical expertise, experience, and administrative abilities when he was selected to be Director of the nascent Rochester Dental Dispensary by the Dispensary’s Board of Trustees. At that time he was already acquainted with several board members, including Rochester philanthropist George Eastman, having made Eastman’s first pair of effective dentures. Eastman did not weigh in on the selection, but heartily approved the Board’s choice.

In 1916, Burkhart worked closely with the Dispensary’s Board of Trustees to successfully launch the Dispensary, and the children’s clinic opened its doors on October, 15, 1917. At the Dispensary he oversaw a team of dentists and hygienists working to promote the oral health of Rochester’s poorest children.  By January of 1934, the Dispensary had received 1,153,310 pediatric visits.

One of his early initiatives was to found a school for dental hygienists to provide a workforce for the Dispensary. The School was approved by the New York Board of Regents and was one of the first of its kind in the United States. As principal of the Eastman Dental Dispensary School for Dental Hygienists, Dr. Burkhart oversaw the school curriculum and coordinated their training. He believed that in addition to dental prophylaxis, an important role of the dental hygienist was consumer health education: hygienists teaching children and adults how to care for their oral health.

The Eastman Dental Clinic in Brussels being built Children waiting at the Dispensary for treatment
Left: The construction of the Eastman Dental Clinic in Brussels, Belgium. Right: Children's waiting room at the Dispensary.

Well respected by George Eastman, Burkhart acted as Eastman’s personal representative to spread the Dispensary model and establish five public children’s dental clinics in Europe. This task entailed traveling abroad biannually for discussions and negotiations with local dental leaders and officials. The European clinics emulated the Rochester clinic and were situated in the major European cities of Brussels, London, Rome, Paris, and Stockholm. One colleague named Burkhart “Dentistry’s Ambassador-At-Large” for his diplomatic work abroad.

Harvey Burkhart was a well-known and respected figure in his day, working collaboratively in dental organizations at local, national, and international levels.  He was a member of the New York State Board of Dental Examiners for fifty years. From 1896-1897, Burkhart was President of the Dental Society of the State of New York, and he served as President of the American Dental Association from 1898-1899. In 1920, he participated in the establishment of the American College of Dentists and was a member of their first board of directors. He was also president of the 4th International Dental Congress.


These papers were acquired by Eastman Dental Center, where Library staff carefully sorted, organized and preserved these materials. This collection, along with the rest of the EDC Archives, was transferred from Bibby Library to the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the Edward G. Miner Library in the autumn of 2017. The collection was reprocessed in the winter of 2018.

A detailed inventory of the files pertaining to Harvey J. Burkhart is provided at the Eastman Dental Center Archives webpage, Series 6. Boxes 1-13: Persons. Burkhart material is contained in Box 7, Folders 12-19 and Box 8, Folders 1 - 9.  Boxes documenting early Rochester Dental Dispensary history also contain material related to Burkhart.

View more historical images at Bibby Library's History page, or the Eastman Institute for Oral Health (EIOH) collections at the New York Heritage website , and UR Research.

Harvey Burkhart walking down the Dispensary stairs with patients Dr. Harvey standing in the center of the main Dispensary clinic
Left: Dr. Burkhart descending the steps of the Rochester Dental Dispensary with visitors Right: The main dental clinic of the Dispensary, Dr. Burkhart standing in the midst of the dental chairs.

Biographical Data

Harvey Jacob Burkhart was born on August 14, 1861, in Cleveland, Ohio to parents Jacob & Biena Burkhart. He moved to Dansville, N.Y. to live with his brother, a local dentist. There the young Burkhart attended the Dansville Seminary, and upon graduation left to study dentistry at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

In 1890, after graduating from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, he opened a dentistry practice in Batavia, N.Y. The same year, at the age of twenty-nine, he married Jane Hingston of Buffalo, N.Y. They had one son, Richard A. After his wife’s death, he married Lou Mercereau of New York City, a widow with two children.

In addition to practicing his dental profession, Harvey Burkhart was a model citizen and quite involved in his local community. Besides his memberships in Oddfellows, Rotary Club and the Masonic Temple, Burkhart served as a member of the local Board of Education for fifteen years. He was elected as Batavia’s village president for four terms and became the first mayor of the new City of Batavia in 1915. 

Dr. Burkhart died at the age of 82 from a heart attack while on an afternoon drive with his wife, Lou, in Rochester. Burkhart served as the Dispensary’s director from 1916 until his death.

Recommended Sources for Additional Research on Harvey Burkhart

Ackerman, C. W. (1930). New moulds for old needs; In George Eastman. Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Democrat & Chronicle news archive.

Harris, M. (2000). The Eastman Jubilee 1948-1998. British Dental Journal, 188(12), 647-652.

Pierre Fauchard Academy. Pierre fauchard academy, hall of fame inductees: Dr. Harvey J. Burkhart. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from

The Presidents. Harvey Jacob Burkhart, 1898-1899. (1982). Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 104(1), 17.

Ring, M. E. (1991). Harvey J. Burkhart: a world leader in dentistry. The Journal of the American College ofDentists, 58(4), 11-17.