Civil War Surgical
Set Brass Cartouche Engraving
By Dr. Michael Echols
One of the detection
methods to use for identification of 'faked' Civil War surgical sets is
to identify the type of engraving techniques used to inscribe the brass
plate (cartouche) on the top of the mahogany wood case. Fakes will
usually have been marked with a technique other than hand engraving due
to the ease of producing non-engraved brass cartouches for a surgical
set. With fakes, it is usually obvious the brass plate has been
removed and re-cemented, where as the originals are precision cut into
place and show on large or ragged space between the wood and brass and
no marks from having been removed and re-cemented.
After the brass was
hand-engraved, not stamped, not laser-cut, and not impressed with struck
steel dies, the plate was precisely inlayed into the wood, glued, and
the whole case was given a coat of varnish by the maker. This
varnish and other debris can be noted in the cut marks that form the
letters of the engraved 'U.S.A. Hosp'l. Dep't'
in the following photos:
Click images to enlarge
Above, the engraving cut-marks are long strokes with a
point on each end of the stroke from where the chisel
started and finished the cut. The font of the
letters are consistent with the period. This engraving is
not accomplished with a metal punch or created with a series of dots, but
with deep cuts into the brass. Click on the image
to examine the details. This particular
example is from a Geo.Tiemann & Co., New York, c. 1861
The engraving, like handwriting, may vary with the artisan and the
Below, a post-Civil War example
of individual die-struck imprinting of a brass plate on a
War set brass plate and not a particularly
well done job judging by the spacing and irregularity of the strikes.
is an example from Hernstein and Son, also in New York,
c. 1861. on this small trepanning case, only 'U.S.A'
is engraved on the brass plate. Of note is the
diagonal marks which followed an inked pattern drawn on
the brass before the engraving was performed.