Ship's Surgical Kit

Description (Brief)
This wooden surgical case with brass fittings has three main compartments, one of which is a tray that lifts out from the lower case. The interior of the case is molded so that each instrument has its own compartment. The entire interior is lined with purple velvet. The exterior of the lid has an oval escutcheon which is marked, "U.S.A./ Hosp. Dept." The set includes 45 instruments, three of which are not original to the set. At least six instruments are missing, including four knives and a bandage scissors.
During the Civil War the United States Army contracted with several surgical instrument makers, including Herman Hernstein to provide surgical sets for the Union troops.
As a young boy in Germany Hermann Hernstein was apprenticed to a surgical instrument maker. He came to the United States in 1841 and settled in New York City. Within a few years, he had established his own shop.
According to Edmonson much of Hernstein’s inventory was imported from Europe.
Object Name
surgical set
date made
Hermann Hernstein & Son
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 3 1/2 in x 17 1/4 in x 7 1/2 in; 8.89 cm x 43.815 cm x 19.05 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Natural Resources
Cultures & Communities
Industry & Manufacturing
Health & Medicine
Civil War Surgical Sets
Civil War and Reconstruction
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Civil War Surgical Sets
On The Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gustave and Phyllis Sokol

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