Tag Archive | Medicine

Exhibit floor highlight



Object: Cabinet

I-0309d scan

Dentist Cabinet
San Antonio
Materials: Wood, metal, imitation marble and ceramic


Set of dental instruments in case, late 19th century. This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

This object is a dentist cabinet from Dr. James Reveley’s dentist office. Dentists’ used to store their instruments in cabinets like this one. Dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions, with evidence of it dating back to 7000 B.C. in the Indus Valley Civilization. Dentistry was also mentioned in ancient Greece with Hippocrates and Aristotle writing on how to treat tooth decay.  Starting in the middle ages barbers performed oral surgeries and dental cleanings. The barbers divided themselves into two groups, the first group performed oral surgeries, and the second group performed oral cleanings, shavings, bleedings and tooth extractions. However, it was not until the 18th century when a French man named Pierre Fauchard wrote a book on how to perform basic surgery on a patient’s mouth and teeth that dentistry became a defined profession. After Fauchard published his book, “LeChirurgien Dentiste” the men who practiced oral surgeries started to call themselves dentists and broke away from the term barber.

John Henry "Doc" Holliday, dentist and gambler, an ally of the Earps at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday, dentist and gambler, an ally of the Earps at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1840 Baltimore College of Dental Surgery opened becoming first dental school to open. This paved the way for other dentistry schools to open, including the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery where John Henry “Doc” Holliday received his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Holliday came to Texas during the Annual Fair of the North Texas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Blood Stock Association at the Dallas County Fair in 1874. Holliday took home the three awards they were offering, “best set of gold teeth”, “the best in Vulcanized rubber”, and “the best set of artificial teeth and dental ware.” Although Holiday’s career veered away from dentistry, his awards led other Texan dentists to improve the way they treated teeth. About 10 years before Holliday won his awards the American Dental Association was formed, consisting of 26 members determined to promote high professional standards and scientific research.

Dentistry has come a long way from the days of the barbershop, and even the most squeamish patients can now expect a relatively pain-free and safe experience. This is in part due to the discoveries of men like William Thomas Green Morton; he discovered the use of ether as an anesthetic. He performed the first painless oral surgery in 1846 and other doctors soon adopted this method of surgical anesthesia. Another dentist who changed dentistry for the U.S., and for Texas, is Dr. Greene Vardiman Black.  He believed that dentistry should be scientific and performed by highly skilled professionals. He invented a dental engine with a foot motor, he standardized dental terminologies, and gave dental instruments the names they have now. Many dentists consider Black the father of modern dentistry; he helped dentists all over the country regulate what they called the tools of their trade, and he passed on his professional standards for dentistry. [Amanda Rock, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Archer, W. Harry. 1946. William T.G. Morton, dentist, who first publicly demonstrated ether anesthesia: a short biography. Chicago: American Dental Association.

Black, Carl Ellsworth, and Bessie Black. 1940. From pioneer to scientist; the life story of Greene Vardiman Black, “father of modern dentistry,” and his son, Arthur Davenport Black, late dean of Northwestern university Dental school. Saint Paul, Minn: Bruce Publishing Company.

Bryant, Jill. 2003. John Henry Holliday. Mankato, MN: Weigl.

Davis, Audrey B. 1975. The dentist and his tools: a publication of the National Museum of History and Technology. [Washington]: National Museum of History & Technology.

Herda, D. J. 2011. They call me Doc: the story behind the legend of John Henry Holliday. Guilford, Conn: Lyons Press.

Horan, James D., and Paul Sann. 1954. Pictorial history of the wild West; a true account of the bad men, desperadoes, rustlers, and outlaws of the old West–and the men who fought them to establish law and order. New York: Crown Publishers.

MacQuitty, Betty. 1969. The battle for oblivion: the discovery of anaesthesia. London: Harrap.

Morton, W. T. G. 1846. To surgeons and physicians. [Boston]: [publisher not identified].

Pappas, Charles N. 1983. The life and times of G.V. Black. Chicago: Quintessence Pub. Co.

Object: Stethoscope


20th Century

A common symbol often associated with the medical field is a stethoscope. This device is often seen hanging around the necks of medical personnel. The stethoscope was invented in 1816, by a Frenchman named Rene Theophile Hyachinthe Laennec. The notion of listening to internal sounds of the human body is called auscultation. Before devices like the stethoscope, listening to internal sounds was done by placing ones ear on another persons body, this is called immediate auscultation. Laennec came up with the idea for the stethoscope when he was too embarrassed to place his ear on a young woman’s chest. Instead he used the concept of sound traveling through solids and rolled 24 sheets of paper, placed one end to his ear and the other end to the woman’s chest. To his surprise it worked and the sounds were loud and clear, this is called mediate auscultation.

An early model of the stethoscope belonged to Laennec.

An early model of the stethoscope belonged to Laennec.

The name for the device was not always stethoscope. In fact, Laennec preferred the device be called “Le Cylindre” but believed the device did not need a name. After his colleagues began to give it random names he decided that if the device was going to have a name it would be stethoscope. The name comes from the Greek words of stethos (chest) and scopes (examination). At that time the stethoscope was a wooden cylinder and looked similar to a hearing aid in use at the time, known as the ear trumpet. The device would look this way until 1851 when the stethoscope was made to be used with both ears, or binaural. This was made possible due to the invention of rubber. George Phillip Cammann is credited for the binaural stethoscope after he published specifications for the model in 1853. Today it is one of the most recognizable pieces of medical equipment.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa photo via utsystem.

Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa photo via utsystem.

This stethoscope belonged to Dr. Francisco Gonzalez Cigarroa a native of Laredo, Texas. One of ten children, Cigarroa attended J.W. Nixon High School and later Yale University. Cigarroa received a bachelors in biology and his medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Dr. Cigarroa was chief resident in General Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1995 Dr. Cigarroa joined the University of Texas Health and Science Center at San Antonio as the director of pediatric surgery and was president from 2000-2009. In 2009 he became the first Hispanic to become chancellor of the University of Texas System. Dr. Cigarroa is known nationally as a prominent transplant surgeon.

Today the future of the stethoscope is up in the air. As new technology is integrated into the medical field many have begun to wonder if the stethoscope has run its course. Doctors rarely reach for the stethoscope when trying to figure out what the problem is. Instead doctors choose devices like the echocardiogram, as well as small pocket sized ultrasound devices over the stethoscope. These devices are more accurate, but come with a hefty price for patients.  As technology advances there are not enough doctors who can mentor younger doctors on the science of auscultation.  The stethoscope is still relevant when it comes to listening to the lungs and bowels but, for the cardiovascular system many argue it is not an effective tool. However, many view the stethoscope as a symbol of the relationship between doctor and patient. The future of the stethoscope may be unclear but one thing is for certain it still remains an iconic piece of medical equipment. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Blaufox, M. Donald. An Ear to the Chest: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of the Stethoscope. New York: Parthenon Pub. Group, 2002.

Duffin, Jacalyn. To See with a Better Eye A Life of R.T.H. Laennec. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

León, David J., and Ruben Orlando Martinez. Latino College Presidents: In Their Own Words. 2013.

Object: Painting


“Rosanna Osterman in Galveston, 1862”
Bruce Marshall
20th Century
Materials: Paint/Paper/Metal/Glass

This object is a framed original watercolor by Bruce Marshall entitled “Rosanna Osterman in Galveston, 1862.” Rosanna Osterman was a Jewish resident of Texas known for her work as a nurse during the Civil War. She was born in Germany in 1809 and moved to Maryland as a child. She married Amsterdam native Joseph Osterman, a silversmith and merchant who established a mercantile business in Galveston in 1838. Rosanna joined him in Galveston in 1839. When the town was overrun by a yellow fever epidemic in 1853, Rosanna operated a makeshift hospital on her family’s property to help care for the sick. As more epidemics swept through Galveston, evidence suggests she continued to volunteer as a nurse during these outbreaks. In 1862 the Civil War came to Galveston and the widow Rosanna again opened her home as a hospital, this time to both Union and Confederate soldiers. When citizens started to flee the city, she continued to care for the sick and injured. In addition to her nursing duties, Rosanna carried military information for the confederate army. In recognition of her nursing services, the 8th Texas Infantry regiment published a letter praising her in the Galveston News. She died in February of 1866 in a steamboat explosion aboard the W.R. Carter.

Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix Via: Wikimedia Commons

Many women wanted to help during the Civil War but were initially discouraged from contributing on both the Union and Confederate sides. In the north, women had to deal with male colleagues who thought they didn’t belong. In the south, women were denied permission to work as nurses for fear the experience might expose them to the horrors of war. However, as the war progressed, both the Union and Confederate armies changed their policies. Two months after the war began, the United States Secretary of War Simon Cameron appointed Dorothea Dix as Superintendent of Women Nurses. Dorothea was in charge of organizing and staffing the military hospitals. She also established specific criteria for her contracted nurses which included: a minimum age of 30, the ability to pay their own way, 2 letters of recommendation, and sobriety. Dorothea discouraged single women from joining for fear of exposing them to strange men and the hostilities of war. In August of 1861 the United States Congress authorized the Surgeon General to employ female nurses and as compensation paid them about $12 a month, plus food rations. Several northern women operated as nurses under the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The following year (1862) the Confederate Congress passed a law allowing civilians to serve in military hospitals, including women.

When the Civil War began, there were no formal schools to train nurses. Volunteer nurses were largely inexperienced. Instead, they received their education on the job. Civil War nurses had a lot of responsibilities. Among them, nurses had to change bandages, tend wounds, dispense medicine, pass out supplies, write letters on behalf of soldiers, cook and serve meals, and wash the laundry. In the course of their duties, they risked exposure to communicable diseases in unsuitable conditions as well as exposure to the dangers of the battlefield. Makeshift hospitals were overrun with the wounded and dying. But many women continued to volunteer. About 3,300 women served as nurses for the Union Army from 1861-1865 The number of confederate nurses is unknown, but the number seems to be in the thousands.

Civil War Nurse Anne Bell caring for soldiers in Nashville, Tennessee ca. 1861-1865

Civil War Nurse Anne Bell caring for soldiers in Nashville, Tennessee ca. 1861-1865 Via: Wikimedia Commons

The efforts of women during the Civil War transformed the profession. The war shifted the range of nursing from the home to the hospital. It was Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse veteran, who founded the American Red Cross in 1881. In 1868 the president of the American Medical Association, Samuel Gross advocated for the creation of an official nursing school. The first formal nursing school in Texas was founded in 1890 by John Sealy hospital in Galveston. Thanks to the men and women who volunteered as nurses during the Civil War, nursing has become an integral part of the health profession that we benefit from anytime we need medical attention. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Alcott, Louisa May. 1993. Hospital sketches. Chester, CT: Applewood Books

Devine, Shauna. Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Favor, Lesli J, PhD. Women Doctors and Nurses of the Civil War. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2004.

Judd, Deborah, Kathleen Sitzman, G. Megan Davis. A History of American Nursing: Trends and Eras. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010.

Object: Bleeding Cup

I-0600a (3)

Bleeding Cup
Date: 1820-1900
Material: Glass

The average human adult contains about 10 pints of blood. Loss of blood due to an injury, car accident, surgery or any other reason can lead to shock, or worse, death. Which is why blood donors are always needed.  However, throughout history bloodletting, a type of procedure in which blood is removed from the body, was said to benefit one’s health. The object pictured above is a bleeding cup used from around 1820-1900. The cup is made out of clear blown glass. Bleeding cups were one of many tools used during the practice of bloodletting.


Slide via: Hatam A. Shomilie , Medical Science at University of Sharjah

Removing blood from the body, or bloodletting, can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. It was believed that the body contained four humors. The humors consisted of blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile and they needed to be balanced or else a person would fall ill. At this time it was also believed that blood did not circulate, but stayed in one place. As a result when a person got ill the remedy would be to remove the excess blood. Bloodletting was prescribed as a remedy to things like fever, back pain, headaches, acne, and even bone fractures.

Getting bled was common and many people chose the practice because it was thought to be preventative medicine. Some of the tools used for bloodletting included were scarificators, syringes, spring loaded lancets, leeches, and a glass cup. The cup would be heated and placed over the skin. As the air inside the cup cools it creates a vacuum and causes a blood filled blister. An object called a scarificator would be used and the cup would be used again to collect the blood. Bloodletting using a bleeding cup is also called cupping. Cupping can also be done without removing blood and is said to help blood flow and treat pain. There are different kinds of cupping therapy and certain cultures still practice it today to treat and prevent disease. However, cupping therapy has not been proven effective by scientific research studies.

The following video discusses some of the tools used for bloodletting.


Photo via: Kappersproducten.nl, Wikimedia Commons

During the Middle Ages bloodletting was performed by barbers rather than doctors. The barbers became known as barber surgeons and would perform surgery on people. The barber surgeons would not only cut hair but also perform minor surgeries,  bloodletting, enemas and tooth extraction. Customers could easily find barber surgeons by looking for the red, white, and blue pole outside the shop. Some of these barber poles can still be seen today and it is said that the colors represent the blood, bandages, and veins during bloodletting.

Bloodletting was practiced in different parts of the world in including the United States. George Washington was a firm believer in bloodletting, an may have even died due to excessive bloodletting. After getting sick from being out in the rain and snow, Washington complained of a sore throat and could not swallow. When doctors were called he was bled of 3.75 liters of blood in 9-10 hours. Although, he did feel better for a short while he did not make it and passed away. Whether bloodletting played a role in his death is often debated.

Today removing blood from the human body is called phlebotomy and it is only done for diagnostic purposes or when donating blood. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Sources:

Brain, Peter, and Galen. 1986. Galen on bloodletting: a study of the origins, development, and validity of his opinions, with a translation of the three works. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press.

Davis, Audrey B., and Toby A. Appel. 1979. Bloodletting instruments in the National Museum of History and Technology. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Garrison, Fielding H. 1916. The history of bloodletting.

McCann, Henry. 2014. Pricking the vessels: bloodletting therapy in Chinese medicine.

Stern, Heinrich. 1915. Theory and practice of bloodletting. New York: Rebman Company.

Object: Apothecary Bottle


Apothecary Bottle of Glyco Thymoline
Kress & Owen Company
New Jersey
Date: 1852-1986
Materials: Glass, metal, Glyco Thymoline

This is a bottle containing a mixture of Glyco-Thymoline manufactured by Kress & Owen Company. Glyco-Thymoline can still be purchased from Kress & Owen Company today as a mouthwash and an agent against mucosity, gingivitis, and a sore throat. Kress & Owen also have marketed similar types of Glyco-Thymoline products as treatments for cuts, burns, and skin irritations, such as sunburn or poison ivy. This particular bottle was originally from the collection of Eastwood Pharmacy in San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio Drug Company Building

Photo via: en.wikipedia.org

The pharmacy has been associated with Texas since the middle of the 16th century when Europeans began to practice pharmacy and medicine in the Americas and Texas. Some of the medications used were associated with Native American healing traditions and practices. Early practitioners in Texas dealt with difficult conditions due to a lack of supplies and sanitation. Many practitioners had to rely on local vegetation and knowledge in order to construct a supply of medicine. Some were able to amass large enough quantities needed to open the first drugstores, and thus they were the pioneers of drug manufacture and sales in Texas. During the middle of the nineteenth century many druggists in Texas acted as manufacturers, wholesalers, prescribers, and retailers of medicines. Frederick J. Kalteyer opened up one of the earliest retail drugstores in San Antonio in 1854 which became known as the San Antonio Drug Company. The San Antonio Drug Company stayed in operation for more than a century.

In 1879 the Texas Pharmaceutical Association formed in Dallas in order to professionally organize the pharmacists in Texas and to standardize the profession. The Texas Pharmaceutical Association also allowed for pharmacists to receive their education locally rather than abroad in Europe. Later, the Texas Pharmaceutical Association became an integral part in the formation of a chair of pharmacy at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The first pharmacy chair was James Kennedy from San Antonio, Texas. Both the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Pharmaceutical Association, now known as the Texas Pharmacy Association, are important players in the pharmaceutical and public health care system in Texas today. [Catherine Sword, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Esther Jane Wood Hall, “PHARMACY,” Handbook of Texas Online 

Kress & Owen Co., Inc. The Official Site of Glyco-Thymoline. 2008.

Texas Pharmacy Association. Texas Pharmacy Association. 2010.

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