Medgadget unboxed a beautiful and horrifying 1800s surgical kit, owned by "Dr. Geo L. Shearer (an ancient relative of one of your editors), who practiced medicine in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania from 1825 to 1878."
The set contains the basic surgical tools which would have been needed to perform emergency surgery by way of amputation and this is not an uncommon configuration. The essential tools for this would usually comprise of a Liston knife or knives which had long straight razor sharp blades polished steel blades for cutting through the muscle. A capital saw (the large one) was for sawing through weight bearing bones. The forceps and smaller knives would have been used for trimming the muscle and skin in such a way as to produce flap. The needles were used to sew the flap of skin and muscle in place over the bone stump. There would also have been a tourniquet for applying pressure around the limb to temporarily cutting off the blood supply.
In addition to these surgical tools the set also contains two hand trephines and other instruments used for trepanation. These would often come separately in their own case and so this set represents a "compendium" if you like. Other examples of sets which combined instruments for different purposes were carried on board ships. These were grand compendia with comprehensive collections of tools to manage all eventualities, including general surgical, orthopaedic, urological, ophthalmological and dental instruments.
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