Davis and Geck Company Records
Scope and Content
Collection highlights include several typescript histories of the company prepared at various times by members of the Davis and Geck administration, including Ben Hirsch and Charles T. Riall. Other materials include promotional literature describing Davis and Geck products from the 1910s through the 1980s. Some intra-company literature is also present, including newsletters, customer service guidelines, and a plant supervisor's manual. The map case contains floorplans of the Danbury factory, detailing a proposed 1995 renovation. Artifacts obtained from the factory have been donated to the Menczer Museum of Medecine and Dentistry in Hartford, Conn. The Eli Whitney Museum has also received materials from the Davis and Geck plant.
Materials have been placed in a rough order that puts historical documents first, followed by advertisements and product literature, and moving on to company publications and Cyanamid annual reports.
- undated, 1909 - 1997
The collection is open and available for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.
The Davis and Geck Company was founded in 1909 by Charles T. Davis and Fred A. Geck. Geck was experienced in the marketing of sutures from his experience with another company, Van Horn and Sawtell. Charles Davis already owned his own medical supply company. The company's two other founders were Frank C. Bradeen, Vice President, and Benjamin F. Hirsch, as secretary. After only a few months, Fred Geck withdrew from the company as he did not have the requisite knowledge to assist in suture manufacture. Bradeen left the company after only two years. Benjamin Hirsch remained with the company up until the 1950s, and was responsible for much of the company's marketing strategy and for securing several patents. It should be noted that the company's first production facility was in the back room of a livery stable located on Carleton Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.
In 1909, the year that the avis and Geck Company was founded, most hospitals were sterilizing their own catgut sutures, frequently through the use of a chemical solution. The process was imperfect, and frequently resulted in infections or operative delays. In 1913 the Davis and Geck Company introduced the Calustro-thermal process for the heat sterilization of suture tubes after the sutures were sealed inside. This provided hospitals with a reliable product, and saved time in the operating room as well.
The Davis and Geck Company was extremely busy filling contracts during the first World War. In 1922, Davis and Geck began to market Atraumatic needles, which were eyeless needles that had the sutures directly attached to the needle. However, by this time the founder of the company had become involved in a murder investigation. On 17 February 1921, Charles T. Davis shot and killed a police detective who had come to his office to clarify an insurance claim filed by Davis. Davis' mental health came into question - apparently he was convinced that Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to assassinate him. Davis was confined to a mental institution for a few years, but faced a formal criminal trial in 1925 after his mental state had considerably improved. He was found guilty and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.
By 1930, with Charles T. Davis scheduled for a parole hearing, a battle was brewing for control of the company between Davis and his wife. Mrs. Davis claimed to have improved the company during her husband's incarceration, and had also installed her paramour, a Polish nobleman named Cornelius Tuczynski, as vice president of the company. The Davises settled the ownership dispute by selling Davis and Geck to the American Cyanamid Corporation for three million dollars.
Beginning in 1928, the Davis and Geck Company also began to produce surgical films as a way to document new procedures and to assist in the training of doctors and nurses. This program continued into the 1980s as the Cliné Clinic Films Program. The company also gained prestige from 1927 through 1950 through a series of dramtic print advertisements entitled “Sutures in Ancient Surgery,” all of which featured prints by noted artist and photographer Lejaren à Hiller. The original photos from this series have been donated to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Nylon sutures were introduced in 1941. Just prior to Word War II, Davis and Geck held appproximately 70% of the domestic market for sutures, and during the war provided 75% of the sutures required by the U.S. military. However, after the war the company began to lose market share to Ethicon, a division of Johnson and Johnson. Failure to respond to improved packaging introduced by Ethicon led to a reduced market share of 40% by 1952.
In 1951, Davis and Geck acquired a factory in Danbury, Connecticut, formerly owned by the Mutual Rough Hat Company. Production began at this plant in 1953, and it remained the company's primary production facility up until the 1990s. At its peak, over 2000 different surgical products were produced at this one location. Towards the latter 1950s, Cyanamid chose to drop the Davis and Geck name, renaming the company as the Surgical Products Division of American Cyanamid, though retaining the D&G trademark. The Davis and Geck name resurfaced by the 1970s, by which time the company had introduced sutures based on an organic material called polyglycolic acid. These sutures were strong and easy to tie in knots, but could also be completely absorbed by the body's own tissue over time. This generation of sutures provided the backbone for the company's renewed presence in the global marketplace, continuing to the present day.
By the middle 1990s, Davis and Geck was no longer a subsidiary of American Cyanamid. The company was known as Sherwood, Davis and Geck through 1997. The Danbury factory was scheduled for closure in 1998 following the sale of Sherwood, Davis and Geck to the Tyco Corporation and the transfer of plant operations to Mexico.
(The above history was compiled through the use of documents found in the collection, including accounts written by Ben Hirsch and Charles Riall.)
14.5 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
The Davis and Geck Company was founded in 1909 by Charles T. Davis and Fred A. Geck. The company specialized in surgical sutures, beginning with catgut and moving on to kangaroo tendons and later to advanced synthetic materials. For much of its history, Davis and Geck was the world's second largest producer of surgical sutures. The company became part of American Cyanamid in 1930. After subsequent sales, the company was renamed Sherwood, Davis and Geck. Though the D+G offices were initially located in Brooklyn, N.Y., the company purchased a factory in Danbury, Conn., in the early 1950s. This factory was scheduled for closure in 1998 following the sale of Sherwood, Davis and Geck to the Tyco Corporation and the transfer of plant operations to Mexico.
Series I: Records (undated, 1909-1997) includes all the materials in the collection.
Materials donated by Davis and Geck and Charles T. Riall in June 1998. The patent materials were donated in 2008 by the Hartford Medical Society, which also holds Davis and Geck Company materials.
- Administrative records Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Connecticut (state) Subject Source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
- Correspondence Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Danbury (inhabited place) Subject Source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
- Floor plans Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Medical supplies industry Subject Source: Fast
- Memorabilia Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Photographs Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Publications (documents) Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Slides (photographs) Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Sutures Subject Source: Fast
- United States (nation) Subject Source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
- manuscripts (document genre) Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Davis and Geck Company Records
- Archives & Special Collections staff
- 1998 July
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description