Folk Art Barber Pole & Sign brought
nearly $1,900 at our Jan 2006 auction
After a doctors’ appointment, you may need to stop at a pharmacy for a prescription or even have some mild soreness from a shot in your arm. If something more serious is wrong, it may require surgery. Operations are scheduled with highly trained professional surgeons wearing gloves with sterilized instruments while patients are sedated or unconscious and their pain is kept under control. A look at our history reveals a time when practices were much different. Methods of the past, that we would now consider barbaric, were standard operating procedure.
From medieval times through the late 1700’s barbers also acted as surgeons. Barber-surgeons lacked training and many were even illiterate. Prevailing thought was that there were humours in the body consisting of blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. The humours needed to be in balance. An excess of blood was thought to be the source of maladies from fevers to headaches. Bloodletting was a common practice of the time and barbers had the razors and other tools to “cure” their patients of this “excess blood”. Barber-surgeons not only performed bloodletting but lanced boils, pulled teeth and even performed amputations. The red and white striped barber poles with which we are familiar originated with barber-surgeons who hung bandages before and after use around a pole.
The Civil War saw horrific injuries on a massive scale. The National Library of Medicine states, “Although the exact number is not known, approximately 60,000 surgeries, about three quarters of all of the operations performed during the war, were amputations.” Minnie balls, from Civil War rifles, often resulted in shattered bones. Infection was always a risk and amputation lessened the risk of an infection which might have resulted in death. Soldiers often suffered through the surgery without the benefit of anesthesia. Some Civil War doctors became so proficient at amputating limbs that they could perform the operation in less than two minutes.
Codman & Shurtoff dental kit
sold for close to $1,800 at our
Nov 2006 auction
Medical items from the past are collected by doctors who enjoy the history of their craft as well as by other history buffs. Civil War collectors may also seek surgical kits and other items used by doctors during the war. The kits are most desirable when they are in the original velvet lined box. The boxes have slots fitted for the shape of all of the instruments. Some of the instruments in a typical kit are scalpels, forceps, amputation knives and saws.
Other sought after medical antiques are apothecary bottles and jars, brass medical microscopes, medical photographs, medical advertising broadsides, posters and quack medical devices. Quack devices often contained ultraviolet lights that were touted to cure everything from constipation to paralysis.
When you think about the pain, danger and lack of knowledge involved with medicine in the past, your next visit with your dentist or doctor might almost seem enjoyable.
We have a number of upcoming events scheduled.
Evaluating Your Antiques – Bay Path Adult Evening School
Starts: 04/02/2014 at 6:00 pm
Ends: 04/02/2014 at 8:30 pm
57 Old Muggett Hill Rd
Charlton, MA 01507
Hitchcock Academy Appraisal Event
Starts: 04/06/2014 at 10:00 am
Ends: 04/06/2014 at 2:00 pm
2 Brookfield Rd
Brimfield, MA 01010
Evaluating Your Antiques – Forest Grove Middle School
Starts: 04/09/2014 at 6:00 pm
Ends: 04/09/2014 at 9:00 pm
495 Grove Street
Worcester, MA 01605
For more information on Worcester Evaluating your Antiques class, Click Here.
If you have any questions about antique auctions and estate sales, call Wayne Tuiskula, Auctioneer/Appraiser at 508-612-6111 or email us today.
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