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

 c. 1880 J. H. Gemrig  Surgical Set

J. H. Gemrig was a surgical instrument maker in Philadelphia, Pa. during 1841 to 1880 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 109 S. 8th from 1866 to 1880.  After 1881, sets are labeled J. H. Gemrig & Son at the 109 S. 8th address.

The label in this set dates this particular set to the 1865 to 1880 time frame.  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

The handles of the capital saw and single amputation knife are detachable and stored separate from the blades.  The metal is plated on the handle attachment.

The tourniquet is marked 'Gemrig' as are all the instruments.  The metal of the tourniquet is plated.   

To error on the safe side, we'll date this set 1880, but it could be earlier by a couple of years.

(Dating note: according to Edmonson (page 281), electroplating was widespread in the late 1860's and early 1870's.  Nickel plating began in 1876.  This set is nickel plated.)

The trephine crown is blued and the later, post 1860 Galt type.  The heavy ivory handled neurosurgical scalpel has the early cross hatched style handle, is marked 'Gemrig', and fits precisely in a given slot in the scalpel section.

The case measures 4 3/4 x 7 x 11 inches, has brass bands and may be made of Walnut judging by the grain.  The whole case fits in a leather carrying case.

Missing is one long tissue forceps, a small scissors, and an artery forceps.  

This set was acquired from a non- collector in Pennsylvania in whose family the set has resided for a number of years.

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American Surgical Sets:

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques