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

H. Hernstein, Ivory General Operating Surgical Set, c. 1861

'U.S. Army Hospital Dept.' Marked

H. Hernstein, (before adding 'Son' or & Co.) of New York, was located at  Mercer 393 Broadway, New York city, N.Y., during the first year of the Civil War,  Hernstein produced contract ordered surgical sets from this address before taking in his son in 1862, and later becoming '& Co'.   The presence of the maker label is a big plus as it helps set the manufacture date using Edmonson's statistics below. 

(See page 88 of Edmonson's book for a similar set.  Hernstein was importing instruments from French makers or at the very least copying their designs.  The shapes, fluting, checking of the saw and scalpel handles closely resemble those seen by French maker Charriere in various text books such as Benard & Huette, or Valpeau.  This certainly does not detract from the instruments as the French were among the best instrument makers of the period.)

This early war type of set has been seen before in the same configuration and with the ivory instruments, so it is not a special order item.  Curiously, it does not have military latches, but rather a keyed lock, which may indicate it is an earlier version.  The brass plate is engraved with a later, post-war owner's name "A. L. Turner" (who is listed in the AMA Deceased Physicians database).  The block engraving would have been placed post-War.  Most likely this set was sold after the War to the Civilian market as surplus, the original brass plates were frequently removed, the underside engraved, and recemented upside down.  We see this issue all the time: missing brass plates or reversed and recemented to hide the fact the set originally was owned by the U. S. Army.   An x-ray of this brass plate did not show any military engraving on the obverse and it has not been removed.

The presence of a pair of bullet forceps, and U. S. A. / Hosp. Dept. marked gullet forceps as well as a marked U.S. Army Hosp. Dept field tourniquet would indicate military use.  Otherwise it is an Army Hospital Department specified General Operating set, size  (14 x 6 x 2.5 in.) mahogany case with brass re-enforced corners, surgery set with cross-hatched ivory handles and beautifully turned out compliment of, knives, scalpels, and bistouries.

The large gullet or esophageal forceps are disarticulated for storage in the case and are clearly marked: U.S.A. Hosp. Dept.  They are typical of the gullet forceps seen in much larger and one year later field sets by this maker.

Hermann Hernstein surgical instruments    Reference: Edmonson

1843: 3 Chambers

1844: Elizabeth cor. Hester

1845-48: 7 Hague

1850: no listing

1851-52: 68 Duane

1853-54: 81 Duane

1855-57: 81 Duane and 393 Broadway

1858: 61 Duane, 131 Mercer, and 393 Broadway

1859-61: 131 Mercer and 393 Broadway


Hermann Hernstein & Son (Hermann and Albert L. Hernstein)

1862-65: 131 Mercer and 393 Broadway (Mid-War)

Hermann Hernstein & Son & Co. 1865: 2 Liberty and 393 Broadway 

Hermann Hernstein & Co. 1866-67: 2 Liberty and 393 Broadway

A keyed lock, not military sliding latches, with re-enforced cast brass corners, and typical  brass name plate which  shows some glue along the edge from the removal.  Note the font of the engraving is not hand-cut, but individual die stamped with Times Roman font, indicating a later addition after the War.

Click on photos to enlarge





Contents of a Hernstein ivory General Operating surgical set (shown) and a supplemental urinary instrument case (not shown)

1 Metacarpel Saw

1 Trocar

1 Ball Forceps

1 Gullet Forceps

1 Artery Forceps

1 Dressing Forceps

2 Scissors: Straight & Curved

1 Artery Needle with 4 Points

12 Surgeon Needles

1 Tourniquet

1 Small Amputating Knife

1 Small Amputating Catlin

3 Bistories

1 Hernia Knife

3 Scalpels

1 Cataract Knife

1 Cataract Needle

1 Tenaculum

1 Double Hook

2 Mahogany Cases, Brass Bound Cover

The following urinary instruments and case are not with the ivory case, but would have been in a second separate Mahogany case:

6 Steel Bougies, Silvered, Double Curve; 6 Wax Bongies; 6 G. E. Catheters

See a later Tiemann USA Hosp. Dept. example of the specified urinary set



Note: old English font of 'Hernstein' on the scissors and "Times Roman' on the sequestrum forceps


Eye surgery instruments (left) and a large wire suture needle and bone wax (right)


Four aneurism needles (above) with detachable ivory handle,


Esophageal (gullet) forceps marked with 'U. S. A. Hosp. Dep't.'



'H. Hernstein' marked bullet forceps



Bullet forceps with early cross-hatched handle grips


Lifting-back metacarpal bone saw


Hernstein / U. S. A.  Hosp. Dep't engraved field tourniquet


Compare the instruments in the above medium size Hernstein (N.Y.) set with those in a much more extensive and larger CSA surgeon's Hernstein (N.Y.) capital surgery set (below) on this site, which also has a keyed lock. 


Also note the partial set below by Gemrig (Philadelphia) minor surgery set for comparison.  The point being, Gemrig and Hernstein were most likely importing or copying French instruments at this point.



H. Hernstein, or Hernstein & Son, N.Y., marked sets are wanted to purchase for this collection... also complete or partial sets and individual marked instruments by Hernstein, Gemrig, Tiemann, Snowden, Kolbe, Brinkerhoff, Tiencken

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques