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

Antique Surgical Case Latches and Locks

Dr. Michael Echols

The type of latch or key on a surgical set can sometimes be used to indicated approximate date of manufacture. 

Civil War Hospital Department and military cases typically do not have keyed locks (central escutcheon), but rather bilateral sliding inlayed locks which were necessary in war time to avoid lost keys.  Sets with both sliding latches and a central keyed lock exist, as do single sliding latches, but they are the exception. 

Typically Civil War contract surgical cases were made of mahogany wood, not pine, walnut, or fruitwoods. 

Earlier (pre-1860) sets frequently have both swinging latches and a key lock on the front of the case.

 How to lock and unlock 'sticky' locks on set cases


Swinging type latch, typical of early American, English, and European sets pre-1860

Key escutcheon and keys, from different makers, used on civilian sets through out the 1800's

Military inlayed sliding brass latches, two types from different makers, typical of the U.S. Army Medical and Hospital Departments through out the 1800's.  A major indication of Civil War issue during the Civil War, but also seen during the Mexican War. 

At the bottom is an 1880's post-Civil War surface mounted chrome plated sliding latch which is not Civil War era by any stretch of the imagination.

Here is the only example of a 'sliding military latch that I have ever seen on a post-Civil War set.  The copper wire bands of the case are typical of 1870's sets by Gemrig and others.  I had never seen any military set after the War with these latches, but obviously it's possible on Med. Dept. sets.

Swinging latches and central key escutcheon typical pre-1860

Civil War style military set with bilateral sliding all brass latches

Central key escutcheon typical of civilian surgery sets prior to the Civil War, but also seen in 'assembled' sets sold by the maker after the War using left-over parts.

Post 1880, non-military, non-Civil War cherry case with chrome plated sliding latches

How to lock and unlock 'sticky' locks on set cases

How to identify Civil War military sets by latches

Medical Antiques Index

American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques Index

Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols



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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 Arbittier Museum of Medical History Tour:   1 | 2 | 3


Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016