The College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University: A Personal Perspective of Its Founding
“Life consists not of holding good cards, but in playing well the
cards you do hold.” - Josh Billings
In addition to civil rights issues, a debate over manpower needs posed an unexpected
threat to our efforts to establish a veterinary school. The profession had felt the effects of the
evolution to a more mechanized society, and memories of hard times remained close to the
surface. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the combustion engine and expansion of the railroad system displaced the horse’s importance on the farm and as man’s primary
means of transportation. Letters to the editors of veterinary publications predicted the demise
of the horse and the subsequent demise of the veterinary profession. For the most part, the
public and the profession itself viewed veterinarians as “horse doctors.” As a personal recollection, I remember my maternal grandfather seriously asking our local veterinary practitioner,
“Do you know anything about sick cows?” My “Grandpa John” was broadly knowledgeable
about most things, but that question causes me to wonder (now) if he understood the breadth
of veterinary medicine.
The depression of the 1930s further depressed the numbers of practicing veterinarians.
Many sought employment or contracts with disease-control programs sponsored by the USDA.
Few stayed in private practice, because most animal owners had no money to pay them. For a
while our local veterinarian attached a chicken crate to the rear bumper of his car and often
accepted live chickens from farmers for payment of his fees. With World War II opportuni-