Story and photo by Alice Gerard
Peter Jablonski shared the story of Dr. John T. Claris, the veterinarian who was said to be the owner of the largest veterinary establishment in the world, at the March 2 meeting of the Grand Island Historical Society.
Called “the Great Horse Healer,” Claris was born in London, Ontario, in 1862. He came to Buffalo when he was 10 years old. After graduating from the Toronto Veterinary College, he opened his first establishment at Clinton and Watson streets in Buffalo. Later, he moved his practice to a larger structure at Clinton and Adam streets.
“This building could accommodate 100 horses,” Jablonski said. “Claris had very colorful advertising for the times. He treated over 2,000 patients a year. His adage was ‘If you want to be successful, look successful.’”
Claris also owned a horse ambulance, which was famous, but dangerous for pedestrians. The ambulance was large and heavy enough to carry horses. On April 3, 1901, Frank Brusso, who worked for a butcher, was killed by the speeding ambulance when attempting to cross Clinton Street. The next day, Scotty Prulshaw, who did odd jobs for saloons, was killed as he was calling a dog in the intersection of South Division and Pine streets.
In addition, in 1901, there was an epidemic of the grip that affected horses. When horses are infected with the grip, they cough, unlike humans, who sneeze.
In addition to the veterinary practice and the ambulance, Claris also manufactured salves, liniments and other medications for horses. He was known as the great horse healer. His most famous medication was called Kronkine. It was described as “the great fever reducer. It stimulated the heart and nourished a sick horse,” Jablonski said.
Claris later expanded his practice into a facility in New Jersey.
Claris, who was 6 feet, 7 inches tall, and who weighed 300 pounds, died Aug. 27, 1923, two years after he suffered a stroke.