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

 1850's J. H. Gemrig Surgical Set

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 48 N. 6th from 1841 to 1844, at S. 8th in 1845, 43 S, 8th from 1846 to 1865.   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 particular set, which dates c. 1850 has an internal lining which is not completely of fabric.  The sides of the inside are lined with a heavy, textured, colored paper.  The outside bottom of the case is covered with a fabric.  All other areas are a red velvet as would be expected.  See a similar, but a little earlier set on page 47 of Edmonson.

The slotted blade of the capital saw is indicative of an earlier design found during the 1850's.  The slotted blade started in England during the 1840's as a way to eliminate bone sawdust during sawing and was copied by only a few American makers in the 1850's, Tiemann and Gemrig being two of the more notable.  The Satterlee bone forceps date to post-1850.

The removable wood tray fits over the saws in the lower part of the case.  A feature is the presence of two lateral swivel latches in addition to the center key lock.  The key lock is typical of commercial sets, but not of military sets.  

The tourniquet is marked 'Gemrig' as are all the other instruments.

See an 1866 Gemrig catalog with diagrams of instruments.

See a comparison between this set and a later Gemrig set.

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mvc-257s.jpg (33684 bytes) 

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mvc-220s.jpg (23064 bytes)  mvc-221s.jpg (20509 bytes)

 

Note the vertical slots in the saw blade. This is a typical 1850's style.

 

 

Note the blued crowns on the trephines.  Prior to this time, they were polished metal

 

 

Note the articulated steel prongs on this tourniquet and the unusual cast brass frame for the prongs

 

 See a comparison between this set and a later c. 1870 Gemrig set.

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American Surgical Sets:

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques