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

J. H. Gemrig Surgical Set c. 1840's

J. H. Gemrig was a surgical instrument maker in Philadelphia, Pa. during 1840 to 1881 in various forms (alone, with his brother, and with his son).  During the Civil War, Gemrig was a major supplier of surgical sets under contract to the Union forces.  His company was located at 143 N. 6th from 1840 to 1844, at 48 N. 6th from 1841 to 1844, at S. 8th from 1845 to 1880. Gemrig sets are wanted to buy.  All dates are from the Directory of Makers and Dealers as listed by Edmonson in American Surgical Instruments: an Illustrated History:

Jacob H. Gemrig surgical instrument maker

1841-44: 48 N. 6th

1845-49: S. 8th

1846-65: 43 S. 8th

1866-80: 109 S. 8th

This set belonged to doctor George Washington Crum, MD,  who was born in 1811 and lived in Jefferson, Maryland.  His age at the time of the Civil War would most likely preclude him from having served in the Civil War.  He is not listed as a Civil War surgeon.  The set had been in the family until 2004, when I purchased the set..  There are no Gemrig sets of this early vintage shown in Edmonson's text book on American Surgical Instruments.

The set is unusual in its size (16.5 x 9 x 2.5 inches) and the heavy construction of the amputation knives.  One knife, located under the tenaculeum, has been shortened and reshaped, most likely due to breakage at some point during use.  Only the artery tweezers are missing.  Even the blade on the small metacarpal saw is original. The case is made of highly grained mahogany and still retains the original key.  The dark distortions seen on the saw blade are blood stains left by failure to clean the metal after use at some point.  Other distortions are simply the reflections in the bright clean surface of the blades.

The tell-tale dating signs of this early set are the curvature and shape of the knife blades, (curved downward, and the blunt end on the larger blades), the purple velvet interior of the case, and the shape of the capital saw.  All these features and the name "J. H. Gemrig" on many of the instruments points to the set dating during the 1840's.   It was made in Philadelphia, Penn.

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

   

Note the prongs are hand-wrought iron, not cast brass.  The 'T' is not marked.

Compare this set to an 1830 Tiemann set for similarities

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques