American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

Surgical Set collection from 1860 to 1865 - Civilian and Military

Civil War:  Medicine, Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

 Dr. Michael Echols  &  Dr. Doug Arbittier


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American Civil War Surgical Antiques

Research and Identification

Civil War Era Surgical Sets, Surgeon's Images

Civil War Surgeon Education & Medical Textbooks

Established 1995    .     Dr. Michael Echols Collection


As seen in:  Warman's Civil War Collectibles, Antique Week, Northeast Antiques, and various TV programs, Antiques & Collecting publications

Civil War Era Urinary Catheters, Bogies, and Sounds

By Dr. Michael Echols

Drawings from Bourgery & Jacob

Catheters are used to drain the bladder via the urinary tract.  Sounds are used to dilate the urinary tract which can be blocked due to infection, prostate swelling, or trauma.  The drawing to the left (click to enlarge) shows various situations where a hollow catheter or solid sound is inserted via the urethra.  These tubes allow for drainage of the bladder.

Various forms of urinary tract catheters are shown in pre-Civil War catalogs by Snowden & Brother and post-Civil War catalogs by Tiemann & Co. and Gemrig.   Frequently we find catheters are missing for both pocket cases and full surgical cases.  Why is anyone's guess, but the empty formed spaces in a case are testimony to their being missing. 

Shown below are pages from Snowden's pre-War catalog in 1860, Gemrig from the 1870's, and Tiemann's 1880's catalog.  The metal catheters on this page are silver and rigid, not flexible.  This is the type most often found in large Civil War era wood cased surgical sets in the lower sections of the case, under the removable tray.  Also shown  below are soft flexible catheters made in France and sold by Tiemann and other makers.

There were no major supplier catalogs published during the Civil War.  The post-War catalog evidence I have of this kind of urinary tract instrument is from the late 1860's (Gemrig), and 70's, 80's Tiemann catalogs, which may indicate advances in design during the War, but most likely represents the same type of instruments used during the Civil War.

Click on all images to enlarge

Catheters shown in Henry Smith's 1852 book on surgery


Catheters from Snowden & Brother catalog, c. 1860

Snowden & Brother's pre-War catalogue below shows they were importers of French gum catheters


Catheters, sounds, bogies, from Tiemann & Co. catalog, c. 1880's  (examples at bottom of page)




Catheters from Gemrig's catalog c. late 1860's


Male catheters and sounds from Civil War military field sets in this collection

Catheters and sounds from a Tiemann Civil War field set


Catheters and sounds from a Tiemann Civil War military urology set


Catheter and sounds from a Snowden and Brother Civil War military set


Above: c. 1870 (67 Chatham) Tiemann ivory set with later marked handled sounds (4 in top of photo) and (above left) a Tiemann sounds gauge for determination of the diameter of various sizes of sounds, like those in the ivory set.

Below is a collection of Geo. Tiemann catheters both hard and soft.  Both Snowden and Brother, as well as Tiemann imported French soft catheters and those are included.  Some of the soft catheters have ivory tips.  Some of these examples are exactly like those described above in the Tiemann catalog.



A page from an 1851 book on urinary diseases by S. Gross, M.D., which show similar gum catheters. 


This information is significant because we see use of gum catheters during the Civil War, but most are no longer in the sets because of use or over 125 years, they melt and fuse together. 



Rigid silver catheters for draining the bladder after dilation with a urethral sound


Silver catheters with loops for attaching a string to hold them in place

Three examples of catheter use reported during the Civil War from the History of Surgical and  Medical Records

Reasons for rejection of Army applicants:

(32)  Incontinence of urine, being a disease frequently feigned and of rare occurrence, is not of itself a cause for exemption. Stone in the bladder, ascertained by the introduction of the metallic catheter, is a positive disqualification.


Medical cases cited in the Medical and Surgical History:

CAMPBELL, HARRISON G., Private of Co. F, 5th United States Cavalry, aged 25 years, was wounded in action near Louisa Court House, Virginia, on May 4th, 1863, and fell into the hands of the enemy. He was exchanged, and sent to Annapolis on the hospital transport State of Maine, and was admitted to the general hospital at that place on May 17th, with two suppurating sabre wounds of the scalp, one over the right parietal eminence, the other behind the left ear. He had headache, with frequent pulse, constipated bowels, and appeared to be very feeble. He was purged, and then ordered good diets and." whiskey and quinine freely." On May 20th erysipelas attacked the left leg, which had received no injury. Tincture of iodine locally and tincture of the sesquichloride of iron internally were employed to combat this complication. On May 21st there was epistaxis; the pulse was small, at 110; the tongue heavily coated. On the 23d there was diarrhoea, which was controlled by pills of opium and camphor. The next day the pulse had risen to 120, and was soft. The abdomen was tympanitic. Stimulants were freely given. The catheter was resorted to, on account of retention of urine, which was scanty and high colored, and oil of turpentine, in doses of ten drops, thrice daily, was ordered. On the 28th the erysipelatous inflammation had extended up the back and over the right leg. The teeth were covered with sores. Turpentine, with carbonate of ammonia and whiskey and concentrated nutriment, and tincture of iodine locally, constituted the treatment. On June 6th, the erysipelas had extended to the face and throat, and the patient became delirious. He continued in an unconscious state until June 14th, 1863, when he died. Acting Assistant Surgeon J. M. Matlock, who reports the case, ascribes the fatal event to "exhaustion following typhoid erysipelas," and as unconnected with the scalp wounds, which maintained an healthy appearance to the last.


CASE.--Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius W. Tolles, chief quartermaster Middle Military Division, was attacked on the 11th of October, 1864, by a band of guerillas as he was passing through Newtown, Virginia, on his way to the front. Although he surrendered without resistance, one of the treacherous party, stepping behind the Colonel, shot him in the head. The missile, a pistol ball, penetrated the cranial cavity through the occipital bone at a point midway between the superior angle and the curved line, three-fourths of an inch to the left of the median line, making a clean perforation and lodging in the posterior lobe of the cerebrum one-half inch deep. He was conveyed to Winchester, and placed under the care of Dr. Emanuel, Acting Staff Surgeon U.S.A.


This officer states that the wound suppurated well, and caused no pain; the patient's mental faculties remained unimpaired, and his appetite good, so that a favorable prognosis was granted. On October 22d, the ball was extracted in small fragments. About the end of October, evacuations of the faeces and urine began to occur involuntarily; on the 31st, there was an entire suppression of the urine, as ascertained by the introduction of the catheter, and the faeces were again discharged involuntarily. On the 4th of November, the vision and hearing became defective. Delirium ensued, and death occurred on November 7th, 1864. Upon removing the calvaria, at the autopsy, the dura mater around the wound was found ecchymosed, and the cavity in the cerebrum, which was about one-half inch deep, filled with purulent and offensive pus, and lined with plastic filamentous fibrin. A fragment of bone, about three-fourths of an inch in diameter, was extracted from a point just below. The pia mater had suffered morbid changes. A sero-purulent fluid was found in the inferior and posterior depressions of the lateral ventricles, and likewise in the fourth ventricle, the lining membrane of which cavity had undergone softening, as had also the sheaths of the roots of the seventh, eighth, and ninth pairs of nerves, which were of a greenish hue; the optic commissure was congested. The substance of the encephalon was sound throughout. The semi-lunar lobe of the left lateral hemisphere of the cerebellum was firmly adherent to the tentorium. The case is reported by Acting Assistant Surgeon W. L. Hammond.

Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

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Civil War Medical Collections 


Direct links to all medical & Civil War collections on this site                         

American Surgical Sets:

Pre-Civil War:  1 | 2  -   Post-Civil War:  3  -  Civil War 1861-1865:  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   INDEX

Medical Text-Books:

1 | 1a | 2 | 2a | 3 | 3a | 4 | 4a | 5 | 5a | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 9a | 10 | 11 | 12    INDEX

Surgeon General's Office Library printed catalogues: 1840 | 1864 | 1865
Medical Lecture Cards: 1 | 2 | 34 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21    INDEX

Medical Faculty and Authors:


Navy Surgeon Exams:

1863 Navy Surgeon Applicant Exams with Biographies   INDEX ONE | INDEX TWO

Surgeon CDVs, Images:

Army: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8    INDEX

Navy: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8   

Hosp Dep't Bottles, Tins, 

U.S. Army Pannier:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques

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Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016