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, Antiques & Collecting publications, and various TV programs

 Civil War Leather Pocket Surgical Kits

By Dr. Michael Echols

Given the long history of leather wrapped 'pocket' surgical kits and the multitude of forms in which they exist, it is necessary, yet hard to find solid information about any given kit to prove it was used or offered as a "U.S. Army pocket surgical kit".  The information can be found in the 'Handbook of Surgical Operations' by Stephen Smith, and in the Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion.  That information is linked to this page or provided below.


Examine this Hernstein & Son Civil War pocket surgical kit



Examine this Tiemann Civil War pocket surgical kit


Instruments found in pre-Civil War pocket kits by Snowden & Brother; post-Civil War pocket kits by Tiemann

Evaluating pockets surgical sets using Civil War era catalogs

An article on the pocket cases which were designated by the U.S. Army Medical Department

Tiemann pocket surgical instruments patent marked for 1864


Edited from the medical text book Handbook of Surgical Operations, U. S. A. Medical Department, 1863, (in this collection) written during the Civil War by Stephen Smith, M.D.:




Pocket Case.—Pocket cases are of various sizes, according to the number and kind of instruments which they contain. They may be divided into, 1st. The complete; and 2d. The select case. The complete case usually contains the following instruments, arranged in four folds:—A large and small scalpel; a straight and curved scissors; an artery, dissecting, and dressing forceps; a sharp and probe-pointed bistoury; tenaculum; an abscess, gum, and common lancet; an exploring and seton needle ; spatula; probes; director; male and female catheter; surgeon's needles.


Select cases are made to suit the wishes of individual surgeons, and generally contain a limited number of instruments in a compact form. The case may consist of several folds, or a single fold. The following select oases of well known surgeons are now much used, and may be given as illustrations:


Contents of Dr. Willard Parker's Pocket Case, of two folds.—One scalpel and blunt bistoury, spring back; one tenotomy knife, and small curved bistoury, spring back; one gum lancet and tenaculum, double spring back; one pair scissors; one pair of silver probes; one silver director; one artery forceps; one double catheter and caustic holder; needles, silk, silver wire in pocket of fold. Dimensions, five inches long, two and a half inches wide.


Contents of Dr. Wm. H. Van, JBuren's Pocket Case, of two folds.—One scalpel and sharp bistoury, spring back; one scalpel and blunt bistoury, spring back; one tenaculum and tenotomy knife, spring back; one double catheter; one pair silver probes; one exploring needle; one pair straight scissors; one artery forceps; one silver director with spoon; needles, silk, and silver wire in the pocket. Dimensions, five inches long, two and a half inches wide.

The regimental surgeon of the U. S. Army is provided with the following list of instruments in his pocket case :


One large scalpel; one small scalpel; one artery forceps; one bull-dog forceps; one curved forceps; one dressing forceps; one needle; one sharp-pointed mstoury; one probe-pointed bistoury; one long probe-pointed bistoury; one straight scissors; one knee scissors; one flat-curved scissors; one gum lancet; one tenaculum; one tenotomy kuife; one abscess lancet; one exploring needle; one exploring trocar; one seton needle; one spatula; two probes; one director; one double canula; one compound silver catheter; six surgeon's needles; one artery needle.

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques