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

Snowden & Brother, Civil War, U.S.A. Medical Department

Marked Capital Hospital Surgical Set


A rare authentic Civil War Union Army Medical Department capital hospital surgical set manufactured by Snowden and Brother of Philadelphia.  The set is all original instruments by Snowden, and only a couple of minor instruments are missing.  There are no substitutions by other makers or from a different time.  This is a guaranteed Civil War surgery set such as would have been used in the well staffed hospitals during the first year of the war.   There is also a Snowden and Brother companion field set, which is the type that would have been used in the temporary forward areas during the war.

Note: Field sets are smaller and less extensive than Capital sets.  Capital sets would have been used in rear areas or hospitals.  Field sets were used closer to the front lines, thus the smaller size and narrow compliment of instruments.  This field set is also marked for the U. S. Army Medical Department, which means it was most likely in existence prior to, or very early during the War.

Medical Department sets were purchased by the Regular Army prior to, during, and after the Civil War.  The differentiation of the sets is by the type of instruments and of course the trade label when present.  U. S. Army Hospital Department sets were purchased for use by the Army hospitals and regiments and are much more numerous than U. S. Army Medical Department sets, which were purchased by and for a much smaller contingent of surgeons.  Very few of these extensive surgical sets survived after the war and those which did survive, were discarded after the advent of sterilization.

Snowden & Brother (George and Henry) were one of the major suppliers to the U.S. Army before and during the Civil War.  This four layer capital set with both military latches and a key hole (rare) is from just before or during the first year of the War.  Judging by the amount of bloody use the set shows, I think it is right out of a Hospital Department.  Medical Department sets were purchased by the Regular Army prior to, during, and after the Civil War.  The differentiation of the sets is by the type of instruments and of course the trade label when present.

The brass plate is engraved for the U. S. Army Medical Department.   The marking 'Snowden & Bro.' at N. 5th, occurs only during and four years before the War. 

Snowden & Bro. (George P. [1832-?] and Henry C. [1838-?] Snowden become partners I July 1858; William Snowden [1840?] becomes partner I January 1866; Henry C. retires in May,

1872 and sells interest to George) surgical instrument makers  (Edmonson)

1858-64: 15 N. 5th

1864-72: 23 S. 8th

    Proof of dates:

The trick on this Medical Department set is how to date it since there is no trade label attached,   The problem can be resolved by comparison with another Snowden and Brother set which does have the trade label. 

Given the amount of use, blood on the instruments, and the unlikelihood of heavy use prior to the War during this period, one could surmise the set was used during the War no matter when it was bought by the Medical Department prior to 1864 since the most experienced surgeons were in the Regular Army and part of the Medical Department.  During the War, the hospitals were staffed by State Militia surgeons as well as Regular Army surgeons.  Both Medical Department and Hospital Department sets were used by both Regular Army and State Regimental surgeons.


All four sections of the set

Above are the contents of the covered box: needles, bone wax, and silver sutures


The tourniquet is not marked, but orintinal


Below is the compliment of urinary sounds, silver catheters, and leather soft catheters

Below is the contents of the lift-out tray of the lower half of the set

Tags: U.S.A. Medical Department, Snowden, Snowden & Bro., Civil War Surgical Set, Civil War Medicine, Antique Surgical Set, Antique Medical Instruments, Capital set

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American Civil War Medicine & Surgical Antiques