This surgical set belonged to John Maynard Woodworth, M.D. (1837-1879), the first Surgeon General of the United States. Its sheer size (77+ instruments), suburb craftsmanship, and comprehensive armamentarium make this surgical set unique.
The rosewood and brass case with six interior trays for instruments were probably a presentation piece given to him around the time Woodworth became Surgeon General. Most of the instruments are stamped, "W.F. FORD, N.Y." and "SHEPARD & DUDLEY, N.Y." From 1871 to 1874, William F. Ford, Frederick M. Shepard, and Francis D. Dudley formed a short lived partnership. These dates coincide with Woodworth tenure as Surgeon General from March 29, 1871 to March 14, 1879.
The instruments are housed in a Rosewood case with a brass plated escutcheon, engraved medallion, and quoins at the corners. The case contains six wooden trays molded to accommodate specific instruments and lined with rust-colored suede and burgundy satin.
Tray one contains the following instruments: probang, tongue holder, tongue tie, two pairs of forceps, needle holder, tweezer forceps, silver trachea tube, trocar with silver cannula, eighteen knives including bistouries and scalpels, and double and single hooks. Tray two contains: tourniquet, bow saw, two pair of bone forceps, artery forceps, pair of handles for the chain saw, two chains, lifting-back saw, hook, bistourie knife, metacarpal saw, three Liston amputation knives, two Catling amputation knives, two silver ophthalmic probes and broken silver trachea tube. Tray three contains: eight pair of bone forceps, bone mallet, double-ended instrument, universal handle, Hay saw, two crown-type trephines, Galt trephine, and handles for the trephines.
Dr. John Maynard Woodworth was born in western New York State on 15 August 1837. His family eventually moved to Illinois. For most of his adult life Chicago was his home base. He had a life long interest in natural history, museums, and learning. Woodworth studied pharmacy at the University of Chicago. He became the curator of the Chicago Academy of Science Museum and helped establish the Museum of Natural History at the University of Chicago.
In 1861, Woodworth came to Washington, DC to help Spencer F. Baird, the Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, catalogue the Natural History Collections. He continued his association with the Smithsonian after he returned to Chicago to pursue his medical degree. On an expedition to Iowa he collected and donated to the national collections “shells, eggs &c.”. One year later he sent back to Washington reptiles and insects from Memphis, Tennessee. He was also one of the early donors to the National Library of Medicine.
Upon completion of his medical degree in 1862 from the Medical College of Chicago, Woodworth became an Assistant Surgeon in the Union Army, eventually attaining the rank of Surgeon. He served with General William T. Sherman on his infamous “March to the Sea.” After the war Woodworth returned to Illinois to teach anatomy at the Chicago Medical School. In 1871, Woodworth returned to Washington as the first Surgeon General of the United States. He remained in that post until his death in 1879.
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