Civil War Pocket Surgeon’s Kit


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Civil War Pocket Surgeon’s Kit – At the onset of the Civil War, most physicians who joined the army were not “surgeons”; the majority of doctors had never treated gunshot wounds, much less performed amputations. In 1860, virtually all invasive surgery was performed in major medical centers, located in large cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston. Small surgical kits, like this Civil War period example, were ostensibly all most mid-19th century physicians would need for day-to-day, minor procedures. According to the most informative

Website: Civil War pocket surgical cases were manufactured in various sizes, in accordance with the number and type of instruments contained, as seen in the pages from the Snowden & Bros. Catalog of 1860, attached to this listing. Cases could be made to suit the needs of an individual surgeon; the kits usually contained a limited number of surgical instruments, albeit in compact form. The cases were constructed in single fold and multi-fold configurations.

This kit is a larger, war period, multi-fold example, containing an array of period instruments, many stamped with the period maker – “Kingman & Hassam”. This was a significant kit when originally purchased by a Civil War surgeon; the exterior leather is decoratively embossed with gilt aesthetic elements. The kit remains in overall good condition, with some separation of leather elements. The scalpels and bistoury have period, tortoise shell handles. Other instruments contained are two irrigation instruments, scalpel guide, probe, original pencil, venisection forceps and tenaculum. This is one of the more complete Civil War, pocket surgical kits we have had and is a nice example of an early war, surgeon’s pocket kit.

***Information from:

Research indicates that Hassam, based in Boston, made Bowie knives prior to and during the Civil War, as well as a prototype musket, in an unsuccessful attempt to garner a government contract. Just prior to the Civil War, the company Kingman and Hassam made knives and surgical instruments, between 1855-1860. Frederick Fitch Hassam was the founding member; he was a cutler, from 1853 – 1856, then formed the partnership: Kingman & Hassam, 1856 – 1860 and later formed Hassam Brothers, with his brother Roswell H Hassam, opening for business on Boston’s Washington Street, in 1861. The company made edged instruments like knives, razors and bayonets, as official federal contractors. Period catalogs and pamphlets mention Hassam as manufacturers of American Surgical Instruments.