In December 1823 the South Carolina state legislature authorized the establishment of a medical school to be sponsored by the Medical Society of South Carolina. Though chartered by the South Carolina General Assembly, it was not provided with any state funding. As a result the faculty bore all expenses for operating the school. The Medical Society supplied the teachers and secured a facility. The school was completely proprietary rather than state-supported.
Despite lacking a secure source of income, the school thrived and on the eve of the Civil War the student body numbered 248, the fifth largest medical school enrollment in the country (Waring, 1967, p. 82). When the war ended the school reopened with several obstacles in place: the college’s Queen Street building had suffered extensive damage and its laboratory equipment and specimens were destroyed during the Union bombardment of Charleston. Despite these impediments Medical College faculty threw itself back into educating students and continued to operate even when students could not find money to attend. To ensure that the college stayed open, all fees were abolished and the board of trustees and faculty took over the financial obligations for several years beginning in 1872 (Waring, p. 147). Without sustained fiscal support and physical resources the Medical College could no longer supply the resources needed to meet national standards nor supply South Carolina with qualified physicians. For the next 48 years the number of students attending fluctuated and by the turn of the twentieth century, the fate of the school was uncertain.
Waring Historical Library, MUSC, Charleston