Historical Markers
Dr. Bodo Otto Historical Marker
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Dr. Bodo Otto

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
525 Penn St., Penn Sq., Reading

Dedication Date:
February 16, 1951

Behind the Marker

German doctor Bodo Otto was already in his mid-forties and married to a second wife when he arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1755. In the colonies, Otto quickly established himself as a physician serving German immigrant communities in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 1773, he moved to markerReading, Pennsylvania, where he developed his deepest American roots.
Head and shoulders image of Dr. Bodo Otto wearing a ruffled shirt and jacket.
Dr. Bodo Otto, circa 1780.
Otto was an early supporter of the American Revolution. He opposed the Stamp Act in 1765 and served on the Berks County Committee of Public Safety, a group charged with carrying out the recommendations of the Continental Congress and serving as a form of local government on the eve of the crisis with Great Britain.

Once war broke out, Otto volunteered as a surgeon. He was with the Continental Army at the disastrous Battle of Long Island in August 1776. In the melee of the defeat, he reported that he lost "all his Medicines and other Useful Utentials." When smallpox threatened American army during the winter of 1776-77, Otto helped set up an effective inoculation system.

As Surgeon-in-Chief at Yellow Springs, the main hospital serving Valley Forge, Otto earned a reputation as a competent, honest manager - no small feat in an era of vicious backbiting among physicians over the failures of the Continental Army's generally inadequate medical care system.

Service in the name of liberty did not enrich Dr. Otto. Upon his retirement, he was forced to petition Congress for extra pension support, noting that ever since the war he had "been Obliged to Shift for Necessarys for himself and Familie." During the years after the Revolution, he operated apothecary shops in Baltimore and Reading.
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