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