Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Antique Medical Devices
Years ago I was intrigued by a small tin item at an auction I attended, because it was unique and even better, there were remnants of tole painting on the surface. At the time I had no clue what this piece might be but I just knew it would be an interesting addition to my shelf display. Since I love to do research, it became a challenge over several years to discover its provenance. Since often times as we peruse e-bay or other selling sites and check various historical sites, rare items don't necessarily pop up. However, I finally found my answers. Coincidently, pinterest has proven to be a good resource for people who tend to cluster their interests into themes so SUCCESS was finally mine!
After discovering this tin lamp might have been used ca1860 by nurses in the Civil War to tend wounded or dying soldiers on the battlefields, I became even more intrigued. I worked in a museum for ten years and have since served on a board of directors in another one for 12 or so. History is
my hobby! After reading several perspectives regarding the enormous challenges for the earliest nurses on the battlefields of the north vs the south, I have a new respect for the bravery and determination of the first women who decided they were needed in a predominately male dominated area of health care. Women were considered too frail and sensitive to witness the carnage but strong women being told they can't do something took up the challenge and went to work both behind the scenes and directly in hospitals and on the field. They tackled all manner of care including preparing abandoned buildings to receive the thousands of brave soldiers who were maimed and wounded. Often diseases such as diphtheria took the lives of the soldiers as well as the men and women who were providing nursing care. There are well known women such as Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix who wrote about their experiences and went on to establish organizations and foundations that are still in existence today. However, there were mothers, wives, sisters, sweethearts and probably even grandmothers who waded into the unknown devastation that resulted from this war and very few had time to write a letter let alone a book; so think of all of the untold stories that were never known.
If you read the history of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and the beginning of St. Marys Hospital you will discover that Dr. Mayo first arrived in 1863 as the examining surgeon of federal draftees in the Civil War for Olmsted County. He became the "Country Doctor" following the war and in 1883, after a tornado wreaked havoc in the area, he was convinced, along with his two sons William and Charley, to erect the now famous hospital.
So my identified little 7" tin lantern/lamp/heater has a wonderful history and has invited me to explore. Civil War memorabilia is coveted by museums and historical societies and families are proud to preserve and protect items that have been handed down by ancestors. I wonder who might have used this small lamp and if only we knew its story. History Matters!