Tourniquets: variations and methods for dating
by Dr. Michael Echols
Tourniquets are used to stop blood flow in arteries and veins. They are mechanical instruments for ligating a limb or artery to stop bleeding prior to amputation or surgery. Most amputation sets will have at least one and sometimes more than one tourniquets, depending the maker. In my experience, French amputation sets are more likely to have multiple tourniquets, whereas American or English sets usually only have one.
During the hundred years era of this collection (1800 to 1900) tourniquets were made of cast brass, with brass or steel buckles and in the very late part of the century, German silver or plated with nickel. The earliest straps were generally a colorless plain white cloth strap about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. During and after the Civil War, it was not uncommon to see red stripe or multi-colored straps, but toward the end of the century, the predominate color was again white. Noting the shapes of the turning ' T ' and the type of buckle are good indications of the age. English and European source tourniquets have multi-curved 'T's, whereas most, but not all American makers typically used rectangular 'T's. Earlier tourniquets have cast buckles and brass prongs, while later models during the Civil War used a steel buckle frame and steel prongs.
Not all tourniquets will have the maker name imprinted on the brass frame. Most were marked, but apparently many makers used a similar style supplied by some unknown (to me anyway) supplier of the time. The same is true with wood cases in a given city, one or two suppliers made the wood cases for multiple makers, who then dressed out the interiors to suit their needs.
Not all tourniquets are the same size. They tend to be larger prior to 1865 and small afterwards. The largest tend to be found in the earliest sets, c. 1830's and before. French and English origin tourniquets are much more ornate than the ones used by American makers. I mention this because there were many French instruments imported into the states and colonies. Due to the variations in the size, the fixed size of the slot in the case will determine the 'fit' and may help determine the originality of a given tourniquet.
During this time frame, many makers imported various parts of their sets, especially something as universal as a tourniquet. That said, as you will see below, the tourniquets can be most unique to each maker and a resource for dating the set and knowing if the item is a replacement or original to the set.
As you can imagine, since the space in a wood case was pretty large to accommodate a tourniquet, it would be easy to mix up items between sets (intentionally or unintentionally). Substitution of tourniquets is a major problem with sets obtained from dealers or collectors who want to 'fill' out a set with missing items. If the tourniquet is exactly the same time frame as the set (as determined by various methods), then there is no problem. But, if something was placed which just happen to 'fit', then we have a substitution which is incorrect and a detriment to the value and history of the set. Since the majority of the sets on this site were NOT obtained from a dealer, but rather from only a known sources who would not substitute, I think the majority of the sets have tourniquets which are consistent with the maker and date when the set was made. Field sources are generally more reliable than 'dealer' sources due to the possibility of a set having a replacement substituted in the set by someone at a show or to increase the value of a sale.
What follows is meant to just be a sampling of various kinds of tourniquets found in this American maker collection. Examine each set in the display section to compare tourniquets from various eras. A link is provided to the various maker sets.
See similar articles on dating tourniquets, saws, bone forceps, forceps, or amputation knives.
Click on any image to enlarge it
c.1830 Tiemann set, marked G.Tiemann/ N-YORK
Note: cast brass buckle with articulated three cast prongs, and solid white cloth strap
c. 1829 Peter Rose, unmarked
Note: strip in cloth, non-brass buckle, hinged prongs
c. 1830's Weigand & Snowden, unmarked, note articulated two prongs, solid white strap c. 1840 J. Gemrig, unmarked
Note: non-brass buckle, solid white cloth, straight, rectangular, unmarked T.
c. 1850 M. Wocher, unmarked
Note the pressure pad, frame buckle and prongs, stripped cloth belt, curved T.
c. 1850's Gemrig, marked, note cast brass frame buckle c. 1861-65 Tiemann, marked
Note the pressure pad
c. 1867 Gemrig, marked , note rounded 'T' c. 1846 Goulding, U. S. Army Hospital Dept. marked c. 1855 Kuemerle, note the ornate 'T', thick pad, very unusual cast prongs into the side of the frame. This same tourniquet is shown in Edmonson's book, page 56, Fig. 73,74. c. 1865 H. Hernstein Civil War issue, U. S. Army Hosp. Dept. note use of wire buckle and shape of the 'T'. Marked. c. 1864-5 Civil War issue made by Hernstein. This tourniquet came out of a U. S. Army Hospital Dept. set, screws in the lid, sliding latches and mark. The 'T' is not maker marked, but I firmly believe this is the real thing for the Civil War issued set.
Noted the buckle is blued with articulated prongs. A much simpler design and construction than the earlier cast prongs.
(I wonder if there may have been a supplier to the makers for cast brass tourniquet frames given the complexity of making the screw mechanism.)
Hernstein / U. S. A. Hosp. Dep't engraved field tourniquet
c. 1860 H. Hernstein, marked with 393 address that determines the date.
1855-57: 81 Duane and 393 Broadway1858-81 Duane, 131 Mercer, and 393 Broadway
c. 1861 H. Hernstein, marked with U.S.A Hosp. Dep't. field tourniquet. This type does not have the spiral brass frame to tighten the strap and must be physically pulled to lock the brass prongs of the buckle and strap. c. 1870 Kern, marked c. 1870's Gemrig, note ornate 'T', marked c. 1880 Aloe-Hernstein, German silver, not brass (which says post 1880).
Contact Dr. Arbittier or Dr. Echols
Last update: Monday, December 12, 2016