Specializing in Authentic Civil War Artifacts
  • Surgical Amputation Kit of John H. Brinton, M.D.

    $12,500.00
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    Surgical Amputation Kit of John H. Brinton - Inventory Number: MED 127

    Medical Director of Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Tennessee

    Cousin of George "Brinton" McClellan

    1st Curator of the Walter Reed Army Hospital in 1863

    This kit was presented to Dr. Brinton by Silas Weir, the famous surgeon known as the "Father of Neurology".  The case formerly belonged to their mutual Professor Thomas Dent Mütter - Renown for his work and more currently the museum  which he started in Philadelphia.

    The kit is accompanied by the "Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton: Civil War Surgeon 1861-1865" Pages 91-92 of the book Brinton recounts:

    "At this point I must record the sad loss of my cherished surgical instruments.  On entering the service I had not drawn from the Medical Purveyor any surgical instruments issued by the Government,  They were, in fact, good enough, and a fair selection, but I preferred to use my own, and I therefore, carried with me a select assortment,  Many of these I had brought with me from Paris; others which had formerly belonged to the late Proffessor Mutter, my old preceptor, had been given to me after his death, by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who had either inheritied them, or received them as a gift from Dr. Mutter's widow.  All of my stock of surgical tools had been wrapped together, and in the hurry of leaving, not having time to select, I took with me the package containing all, onto the field at Belmont.  I unstrapped the package from my saddle, and gave it to my orderely, a lad of eighteen or twenty, to carry for me.  But alas under the artillery fire from the bluffs, he became greatly demoralized, and in utter fright ran away, and I remember distinctly seeing him "scudding" off holding the heavy package on his head with his two hands.  It was a ludicrous sight,  to watch him disappear from the the open into the woods, and with him my precious instruments, none of which I ever again.  Both were captured and the instrument fell into the possession of a Mississippi surgeon, who, as I learned, shortly went to his home, taking my instruments with him.  I made a touching complaint to General Grant, who on a flag of truce later attempted to get my possessions back, but obtained nothing but the above history of their whereabouts...." "AN exchange was proposed, but it never was consummated.  My instruments are I suppose, still in the South,..."  

    Unknown if this was one of the captured kits, but many of the surgical tools are hallmarked "CHARRIERE A. PARIS" on the metal shaft, as are the claps on the front of the kit. 

    This kit has resided in a private medical collection for decades.  This is the first time it has been offered on the market.  IT would prove nearly impossible to find a set with more history and historical significance!!!   


    John Hill Brinton (May 21, 1832 – March 18, 1907) was an American surgeon.

    Brinton was the first child of George and Mary Margaret (Smith) Brinton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1850, and from the Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in 1852. He commenced a general practice in Philadelphia in 1853.

    He served in the capacity of a brigadier surgeon in the American Civil War, later as a member of General Ulysses S. Grant's staff.

    Surgeon General William Alexander Hammond made him the first curator of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

    After the war, he returned to Philadelphia and resumed practice as a surgeon. In 1866, he married Sarah Ward (who also posed for Eakins), with whom he would father six children. Brinton was also friends of painter Thomas Eakins.

    Brinton succeeded Dr. Samuel D. Gross (who was featured in Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic), in the chair of surgery at Jefferson College, and served as the chairman of the Mütter Museum Committee of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He also founded the Philadelphia Pathological Society, and served as the first curator of the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C.. Brinton died in 1907 and is buried in the cemetery at The Woodlands (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

    John Hill Brinton met, observed, and commented on practically the entire hierarchy of the Union army; serving as medical director for Ulysses S. Grant, he came into contact with Philip H. Sheridan, John C. Frémont, Henry W. Halleck, William A. Hammond, D. C. Buell, John A. Rawlins, James Birdseye McPherson, C. F. Smith, John A. McClernand, William S. Rosecrans, and his first cousin George Brinton McClellan. John Y. Simon points out in his foreword that Brinton was one of the first to write about a relatively obscure Grant early in the war:

    Positioned perfectly to observe the luminaries of the military, Brinton also occupied a unique perspective from which to comment on the wretched state of health and medicine in the Union army and on the questionable quality of medical training he found among surgeons. With both A.B. and A.M. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and postgraduate training in Paris and Vienna at a time when most medical schools required only a grammar school education, Brinton was exceptional among Civil War doctors. He found, as John S. Haller, Jr., notes in his preface, "the quality of candidates for surgeon's appointments was meager at best." As president of the Medical Examining Board, Brinton had to lower his standards at the insistence of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Haller points out that one "self-educated candidate for an appointment as brigade surgeon explained to the board that he could do almost anything, from scalping an Indian, up and down.'" Brinton assigned this singular candidate to duty in Kansas "where Brinton hoped he would do the least amount of damage." Throughout the war, the dearth of qualified surgeons created problems.

    Brinton's memoirs reveal a remarkable Civil War surgeon, a witness to conditions in Cairo, the Battle of Belmont, and the Siege of Fort Donelson who encountered almost every Union military leader of note.

    Brinton wrote his memoirs for the edification of his family, not for public consumption. And with the exception of Brinton's acceptance of late nineteenth-century gossip favorable to his cousin General McClellan, the memoirs are remarkable for accuracy and frankness. His portrait of Grant is vivid, and his comments on the state of medicine during the war help explain, why the Civil War was such a medical and human tragedy.

    The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) The museum was founded by U.S. Army Surgeon General William A. Hammond as the Army Medical Museum (AMM) in 1862; it became the NMHM in 1989 and relocated to its present site at the Army's Forest Glen Annex in 2011. An element of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), the NMHM is a member of the National Health Sciences Consortium. The AMM was established during the American Civil War as a center for the collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. In 1862, Hammond directed medical officers in the field to collect "specimens of morbid anatomy...together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed" and to forward them to the newly founded museum for study. The AMM's first curator, John H. Brinton, visited mid-Atlantic battlefields and solicited contributions from doctors throughout the Union Army. During and after the war, AMM staff took pictures of wounded soldiers showing effects of gunshot wounds as well as results of amputations and other surgical procedures. The information collected was compiled into six volumes of The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, published between 1870 and 1883. 

    Thomas Dent Mütter:

    Thomas Dent Mütter was born in 1811 into a world without anesthetics, antibiotics, x-rays, or sterile precautions; a world where wide-awake patients were held down by strong men and operated on by surgeons in street clothes with ungloved hands, in rooms lit only by candles, lamps or daylight, with no pain relief other than perhaps a swig of brandy. A world where doctors operated as swiftly as possible while their patients screamed in agony, where there was little aftercare, and where wound infections were called “laudable pus” and considered an essential part of the healing process. A world where much wrong information was accepted as truth, and quackery ran rampant.

    By the time he was seven, his brother, mother, father, and grandmother had died of illness, leaving him alone, and he already had the beginning of the lung problems that would trouble him throughout his life.  Although his guardian remained aloof, Mütter proved to be a good student so that when he expressed a desire to study medicine, his guardian was supportive.  Mütter graduated with an MD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1831, spent a year in Paris learning from the best surgeons, and then returned to Philadelphia to pursue his career.

    Because of health issues and his failure to build a practice, Mütter considered returning to Paris in 1834 but instead accepted a position to assist Dr. Thomas Harris, a teaching surgeon at the Medical Institute of Jefferson College.  This decision helped Mütter establish a private practice by making house calls, and also allowed him to lecture to students and to perform the difficult reconstructive surgeries he had observed in Paris.  His skills were so impressive that his reputation grew quickly among both patients and medical professionals.  When he was just thirty, Jefferson Medical College appointed him to the Chair of Surgery, a position he held from 1841 to 1856.

    As an innovative surgeon, Thomas Dent Mütter contributed to improvements in surgical procedures:

    Forty years before its importance was generally acknowledged, Mütter insisted on cleanliness in all contacts with patients.  Not only the surgical area and instruments but also the physician’s own hands and clothing had to meet his standards of cleanliness.

    Mütter was ahead of his time in the practice of plastic surgery. He further developed a skin graft technique being tried by French surgeons of covering an open wound with a section of skin still attached to a patient’s body, ensuring more successful outcomes.  A century and a half after his death, “Mütter’s flap” is still in use in some form.

    Mütter’s greatest surgical achievements came in repairing deformities—whether caused at birth, such as cleft palates, or by accident, such as burns. Society perceived sufferers of these deformities as “monsters;” Mütter’s extraordinary skill was their only hope, and in hundreds of challenging operations, he gave them new lives.

    In 1846 Mütter became the first surgeon in Philadelphia to administer ether anesthesia. He saw immediately how anesthesia could lessen suffering and benefit surgical procedures.  In spite of strong opposition from members of the medical community, who labeled anesthesia a danger or a fad, he continued to demonstrate and advocate its use.

    As a surgeon Mütter also contributed to innovations in patient care:

    He did not see his patients as “cases” to be handled but as “partners” to be informed.  He always discussed with his patients their conditions, choices, and risks; he fully explained the steps in the operation and the pain they would experience.

    He devoted days to pre-surgery care, massaging the affected skin of the patient and gently touching the sensitive areas with his instruments.  These sessions represented “a unique approach to medicine, one that Mütter seemed to have invented out of whole cloth.”

    He stressed the value of post-surgery care, from monitoring and cleaning the patients’ wounds to overseeing what and how much they ate and drank.

    He persuaded the College to provide recovery rooms where patients could receive twenty-four-hour care.

    Mütter’s contributions extended beyond surgical procedures and patient care.  In the classroom, empathy for his students made him a popular teacher and an innovative one as well:

    He was the first to introduce the so-called Edinburgh “quizzing” system of teaching in America. Instead of simply lecturing, he engaged the students in a question/answer dialogue, guiding rather than dictating their thinking.

    He also brought examples to enhance his presentations, many from his personal collection of models and specimens to aid his students’ understanding.

    He encouraged his students to investigate for themselves “the general stock of medical lore” in order to ascertain what was true and then to focus on “what remains to do.”

    By the early 1850s Mütter’s health was worsening.  Coughing often brought up blood.  The gout in his hands was so severe that for his surgeries he enlisted the help of Dr. Pancoast.  Fatigue was a daily handicap.  After seeking treatment from the doctors in Europe who were his friends, Mütter accepted that little could be done and turned his energies to his legacy.

    He wished to pass on both his surgical knowledge and his humane philosophies through his students.  Indeed, their application of these concepts would contribute to the emergence of “modern” medicine.  Some of Mütter’s students had significant accomplishments of their own.  For example, Dr. John Letterman established methods for battlefield medicine during the Civil War, including the practice of triage.  Dr. Francis West Lewis helped to create the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Dr. Edward Robinson Squibb invented a distillation process and mask to make the administration of ether uniform and safe; later he founded a pharmaceutical company where cooperation between doctors and pharmacists would be valued.

    It mattered much to Mütter that a permanent place be secured to preserve and share the over 1700 specimens he had collected.  After almost two years of negotiation, in December 1858 the College of Physicians of Philadelphia agreed to establish the Mütter Museum, which opened in 1863.  Today the Mütter Museum’s collection has grown to more than 25,000 items.  Such curiosities as a segment from the vertebra of John Wilkes Booth, a human skull collection, Einstein’s brain, and a plaster cast of Siamese twins Chang and Eng attract 130,000 visitors annually.  The impact of Mütter’s Museum has expanded to help “the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.”

    Mütter lived just three months after learning that his museum would be a certainty.  He was survived by his wife Mary.

    In a eulogy Dr. Pancoast praised Mütter, saying “He felt it a glorious thing to be able to rescue a patient from present suffering or impending danger, when everything else had failed, by the achievement of a successful surgical operation.”1  But Thomas Dent Mütter’s influence as an innovative surgeon and teacher went far beyond the services he performed so gladly and so cheerfully for individual patients.  He helped to change medicine.


    Silas Weir Mitchell:

    Silas Weir Mitchell (February 15, 1829 – January 4, 1914) was an American physician and writer known for his discovery of causalgia (complex regional pain syndrome) and erythromelalgia.

    Silas Weir Mitchell was born on February 15, 1829 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to John Kearsley Mitchell and Sarah Henry Mitchell.

    He studied at the University of Pennsylvania in that city and received the degree of MD at Jefferson Medical College in 1850. During the Civil War he had charge of nervous injuries and maladies at Turners Lane Hospital, Philadelphia, and at the close of the war became a specialist in neurology. In this field Mitchell's name became prominently associated with his introduction of the rest cure, subsequently taken up by the medical world, for nervous diseases, particularly neurasthenia and hysteria. The treatment consisted primarily in isolation, confinement to bed, dieting, electrotherapy and massage; and was popularly known as 'Dr Diet and Dr Quiet'. His medical texts include Injuries of Nerves and Their Consequences (1872) and Fat and Blood (1877). Mitchell's disease (erythromelalgia) is named after him. He also coined the term phantom limb during his study of an amputee.

    Silas Weir Mitchell discovered and treated causalgia (today known as CRPS/RSD), a condition most often encountered by hand surgeons. He is considered the father of neurology as well as an early pioneer in scientific medicine. He was also a psychiatrist, toxicologist, author, poet, and a celebrity in America and Europe. His many skills and interests led his contemporaries to consider him a genius on par with Benjamin Franklin. His contributions to medicine and particularly hand surgery continue to resonate today.

    In 1866 he wrote a short story, combining physiological and psychological problems, entitled "The Case of George Dedlow", in the Atlantic Monthly. From that point onward, Mitchell divided his attention between professional and literary pursuits. In the former field, he produced monographs on rattlesnake venom, on intellectual hygiene, on injuries to the nerves, on neurasthenia, on nervous diseases of women, on the effects of gunshot wounds upon the nervous system, and on the relations between nurse, physician, and patient; while in the latter, he wrote juvenile stories, several volumes of respectable verse (The Hill of Stones and Other Poems was published in 1883 by Houghton, Mifflin and Co.); he also wrote prose fiction of varying merit, which earned him a leading place among the American authors of the close of the 19th century. His historical novels, Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker (1897), The Adventures of François (1898), The Youth of Washington (1904) and The Red City (1909), take high rank in this branch of fiction.


    Joseph-Frédéric-Benoît Charrière (March 19, 1803 - April 28, 1876) was a Swiss-born French manufacturer of surgical instruments. Charrière was born in Cerniat in the Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. He moved to Paris at age 13 and was apprenticed to a manufacturer of knives. In 1820 he founded a company manufacturing surgical instruments, which quickly grew to 400 employees by around 1840, and was world-famous by his death. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1843. He developed and improved a number of instruments, especially hypodermic needles and catheters; the French catheter scale is named after his work. Several of his apprentices also became well-known instrument makers, including Georges-Guillame-Amatus Luer, Louis-Joseph Mathieu, and Adolphe Collin in Paris; Joseph Leiter in Vienna and Camillus Nyrop in Copenhagen. He was inducted into the Legion of Honor in 1851, and died in 1876 in Paris.


    Inventory Number: MED 127