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.

Description (Brief)

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.

Description (Brief)

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.

Description (Brief)

According to Edmonson much of Hernstein’s inventory was imported from Europe.

Surgical kits were not required on merchant vessels, but the larger and better-equipped ships often carried them. These were used for everything from pulling teeth to the amputation of limbs, and everything in between. Like the medicine chests, these kits too were often sold with simple pamphlets, with instructions and diagrams on how to use them in emergencies. The captain or first mate most commonly carried out any needed procedures.

Date Made: 1862-1865

Maker: Hermann Hernstein & Son

Place Made: United States: New York, New York City

Subject: SurgeryRelated Event: Civil War and Reconstruction


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Medicine, Health & Medicine, Cultures & Communities, Work, Industry & Manufacturing, Natural Resources, Transportation, Civil War Surgical Sets

Exhibition: On the Water

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Gustave and Phyllis Sokol

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1977.1103.01Accession Number: 1977.1103Catalog Number: 1977.1103.01

Object Name: casesurgical set

Physical Description: wood (overall material)metal (overall material)Measurements: 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


Record Id: nmah_1216047

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