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Philadelphia Oddities

"Painless Parker's" Bucket of Teeth

Bucket of Teeth
Bucket of teeth

This is another Philadelphia one-of-a-kind attraction. Perhaps, nowhere else in the world is there such a large collection of human teeth. Among the many unusual attractions at Temple University's dental museum is a wooden pail filled to the brim with thousands of teeth pulled by a remarkable showman/dentist, Edgar R.R. "Painless" Parker. The heavyweight champion of tooth pullers died in 1952 at age 80.

In appearance, Parker resembled Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. He wore a top hat and a tooth necklace. He was a flamboyant promoter whose gimmicks included pulling 357 teeth in one day, which he strung as a necklace. He once operated a combination traveling circus/dental clinic. In the end, Parker operated 30 West Coast dental offices, employing 75 dentists and grossing $3 million a year.

Most of his colleagues detested Parker, and the American Dental Association labeled him "a menace to the dignity of the profession." Temple is forced to embrace the wily pitchman because he was a graduate of the Philadelphia Dental College, which became Temple's School of Dentistry. The museum is at the dental school, Broad and Allegheny.

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