J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, July 07, 2017

EXTRA: Would You Give an Arm and a Leg for These Amputation Kits?

RR Auction is offering the amputation kits that Dr. John Warren used in the Revolutionary War. Bidding ends on 12 July, with the last online bid at 6:00 P.M. and the final bids handled by phone after that.

According to the company’s announcement on Art Daily:
One kit is covered in shark or ray skin (shagreen) and contains: bullet forceps with scissor handles; tissue forceps; a grooved director; a Petit-style tourniquet; bow-framed metacarpal saw; and an extra blade for a large amputation saw. Attached inside the hinged top cover is a 19th-century hand-written card tracing the provenance, reading: “Revolutionary Instruments given by Joseph Warren to John Warren to John C. Warren to Henry J. Bigelow. Copy of letter describing them in possession of J. Collins Warren.” . . .

The second kit is mahogany and contains: a capital amputation saw, with a wooden-handled instrument with hexagonal nut to adjust the blade; a curved amputation knife; surgical scissors; and tissue forceps (possibly non-original). The interior is fitted for the instruments, and one (a scalpel) is absent. Nailed to the front edge is a very faint handwritten 19th-century identification label that is extremely difficult to read, but with enhanced contrast can be deciphered: “Used during the Revolutionary War by Dr. John Warren.”
In addition, in 1850 Dr. John Collins Warren, son of the surgeon who used these instruments, guessed that “The case was probably given to him by his brother General Joseph Warren, when he served as a medical pupil.” He also wrote, “The tourniquet is a French instrument from a model of great antiquity. It is, perhaps, the best instrument of the kind which has been invented.”

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