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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Edward Curtis M.D.

Post-Mortem Physician for: Abraham Lincoln

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 College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduated1864

Edward Curtis, M.D. was  a pathologist at the Army Medical Museum.   His letter describing Lincoln's autopsy is quoted in Kunhardt pp 93,95; Photo appears in Kunhardt p 92

Physicians to the Presidents, and their patients: a bibliography. Bull Med Library Assoc. 1961; 49(3): 291-360.  
Kunhardt DM, Kunhardt PB Jr. Twenty Days: A Narrative in Text and Pictures of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Twenty Days and Nights That Followed. New York: Castle Books, 1965.


[Born in Rhode Island.Appointed from New York.]

Military History.—Medical Cadet U. S. Volunteers, 1861. In Hospitals, Washington, Georgetown, D. C., and Philadelphia, Penn., to 1863. Acting Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army, and in the Medical Museum, Washington, D. C. Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army, March, 1864. With the 18th Corps Hospital at White House, Va., and in the Hampton Hospital, Va. Executive Officer in General Sheridan's Hospital, Winchester, Va. Brevet Captain and Major U. S. Army, for faithful and meritorious services during the war. In the office of the Surgeon-General, Washington, D. C.

Curtis, Edward (1838-1912)

Edward Curtis of New York, one of the first to perfect a process of making micro- photographs, was born at Providence, Rhode Island, June 4, 1838. He was a descendant of Henry Curtis, who came to Watertown, Massachusetts, from London, England, in 1636. Edward was the son of George Curtis, a banker, and of Julia Bowen Bridgham Curtis, daughter of the first mayor of Providence. Dr. Curtis attended a private school in New York, graduated from Harvard College in 1859, and began the study of medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, under Dr. Robert Watts, but broke off to enter the army in July, 1861, as medical cadet. In 1863, after two years' service in several army hospitals, he was
appointed acting assistant surgeon and was assigned to duty in the microscopical department of the Army Medical Museum (then in its infancy).

He found time to take instruction at the .University of Pennsylvania and received an M. D. there in 1864, when he was commissioned assistant surgeon and saw field service with the Army of the Potomac, and with General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Returning to the museum in the fall of 1864 he assisted with the autopsy on the body of President Lincoln, April 15, 1865. Becoming major in 1867, he was engaged in 1869, in conjunction with assistant surgeon J. S. Billings, in one of the earliest investigations undertaken by the medical department of the army, that on the possible connection of vegetable organisms with the then prevailing diseases of cattle. During the years of service in the army museums, after the close of the war, Dr. Curtis developed the embryo art of photographing through the microscope; he used wet plates, the only kind then available, but even succeeded in photographing with high powers.

Resigning from the army in 1870, Dr. Curtis was appointed clinical assistant to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and microscopist to the Manhattan Eye and Ear Infirmary. Soon he became lecturer and then professor (1873) of materia medica and therapeutics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, a position he held until 1886, when he resigned to give his whole attention to the office of medical director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, to which he had been appointed ten years previously.

Dr. Curtis was the author of a "Catalogue of the Microscopical Section of the United States Army Medical Museum," Washington, 1867; "An Apparatus for Cutting Microscopical Sections of Eyes," Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society, 1871; "Manual of General Medical Technology," N. Y. 1883; "How Neither of Us Was Hanged." a prize story of army medical life, published in the Youth's Companion, Boston, October 21, 1897; also articles on ophthalmology, materia medica and other subjects in the medical journals and in the Reference Handbook of the Medical Sciences.

Dr. Curtis married Augusta Lawler Stacy of Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1864, and they had five children.

He died of cerebral hemorrhage at his home in New York, November 28, 1912, at the age of seventy-four.

Hist. Coll. of Phr». & Surgs., N. Y., 1912, 410- 413. Portrait, Bibliography.

There is an extensive citation in the Med. and Surg. History regarding an autopsy  assisted by Ass't. Surg. Curtis:

"The protracted death-struggle ceased at twenty minutes past seven o'clock on the morning of April 15th, 1865. At noon, an autopsy was made in the presence of the Surgeon General and others by Assistant Surgeon J. J. Woodward, U. S. A., aided by Assistant Surgeon Edward Curtis, U. S. A."    Medical/Surgical History--Part I, Volume II, On Special Wounds And Injuries.  Chapter I.--Wounds And Injuries Of The Head.  Section III --Trephining After Gunshot Fractures Of The Skull

CASE 8.--Private Edwin Pfluger, Co. H, 2d Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, aged 28 years, was wounded before Petersburg, June 27th, 1864, by a conoidal ball, which entered the right shoulder posteriorly and perforated the scapula just below the spine. He was admitted to the hospital at Fort Monroe on July 4th. On July 14th, intermediary haemorrhage, to the amount of three pints, occurred.
Assistant Surgeon Edward Curtis, U. S. A., ligated, axillary artery in its continuity, not far below the clavicle; haemorrhage recurred on the 24th; and, on the 25th, Dr. Curtis ligated the subclavician artery in the third part of its course. Haemorrhage recurred on the 27th, from the distal end of the axillary artery, but it was arrested by plugging the wound. The case terminated tidally on August 10th, 1864. <ms_p1v2_540>

Medical Examiner.—B. in Providence, 4 June, '38.—Grad. Harvard 1859. M. D. from U. of Penn. '64.—Entered U. S. A. as Medical Cadet, '61.—Acting Asst. Surg. '63. Asst. Surg. '64.—Settled in N. Y. City '70.—Developed Micro, photog'y.—Lecturer on Histology at Coll. P. andS., N. Y., '70.—Prof.Materia Med. '73. Emeritus Prof. '86.—Asst. Surg. N. Y. Eye and Ear Inf. '72 ; Surg. '74. Medical Director Equitable Life Ass. Soc. '76 to date. (seeTV. Y. Med. Examiner.)

(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)

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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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