M2621.1.1-2 | Surgical set

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Surgical set
1834, 19th century
Wood: mahogany; metal: iron, brass; fibre: velvet
8 x 3 x 13 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Surgical set (1)
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Keys to History

Prior to the 1860s, family doctors played a fairly limited role in health care. They were usually called in only in cases of serious illness or accident. Doctors were not as trusted as they are today, and for much of the population, they were economically or geographically out of reach.

Besides prescribing and preparing medicine for the sick, doctors often had to amputate legs, hands and arms. In provision for these painful surgical procedures, which were performed without anaesthetic, their bags were packed with different types of saws and tourniquets.

They also carried tools for extracting foreign bodies lodged in eyes and ears and under the skin in work-related accidents. And no kit was complete without instruments for pulling teeth and assisting childbirth. Some might say that 19th-century physicians had an advantage, in that a large part of their therapeutic arsenal was easily transportable.

Source : Cures and Quackery: The Rise of Patent Medicines [Web tour], by Denis Goulet, Université de Sherbrooke (see Links)

  • What

    Wooden case containing the instruments needed for emergency surgical procedures.

  • Where

    Portable surgical kits of this sort were used by doctors in Europe and North America to care for patients at home or on the scene of an accident.

  • When

    This surgical kit was made in 1834. The instruments are typical of those used until the mid-19th century. With the development of clinical medicine, many more and diverse surgical instruments came into use.

  • Who

    This kit belonged to Dr. E. Robillard. As of 1788, only surgeons and doctors certified by a board of examiners were authorized to use these instruments in Canada.