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Thread: Aprons

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Default Aprons

    I am looking for a decent apron and I know that Godwin makes a leather one. My concern is, is it too 18th Century?

    I know during the Civil War, they made aprons out of rubberized cloth, but I do not believe any sutler is making them today. How accurate would the white cotton aprons be as you would never get them truly cleaned and the blood would soak through to your uniform.


    Thanks,
    John Ferrannini
    Asst Surgeon
    67th NY, Co. K

  2. #2
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    Feb 2008
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    Leesburg, VA
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    Default

    John,
    Do you have any references for surgeons using any type of apron? If you do a search on here there are several discussions about them. There is only 1 picture showing a surgeon with an apron but that was a staged picture. If you have any accounts about them we would love to see them. As to Godney's apron, yes its way 18th century. By the mid 19th century about the only ones using leather were blacksmiths, farriers and wheelwrights.
    your obedient servant,
    Rick Etter
    Surgeon, 2nd Brigade
    Southern Division
    SOCWS

    "not really a surgeon, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express"

  3. #3
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    Default

    Rick,
    Apart from the staged photo, I have been unable to locate any other info that surgeons wore an apron during surgery. I know that aprons are not listed anywhere as an item that would be provided for in a military hospital, so it must have been a personal choice.

    In talking with Dr. Trevor Steionbach, he informed me that some wore cotton, leather and even a gum blanket apron. He pointed out that he has an advertisement for one in his period medical supply catalog.

    I just find it hard to believe that a surgeon even in a battlefield hospital would not wear some sort of covering on themself during surgery. With your vest and shirt potentially covered on blood and matter, when you find time to wash? Plus the stench after a few hours let alone a few days.

    John

  4. #4
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    Default

    John,

    It would seen that aprons were used more for the protection of personal clothing or gear, as you suggest in your posting for battlefield, and yes, even Hospital surgical practices.
    Very little seems to be known at the time about sterilization or even personal hygiene, let alone cleaning and washing of the instruments between surgeries.
    Just my thoughts on the subject,

  5. #5
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    Default

    "I just find it hard to believe that a surgeon even in a battlefield hospital would not wear some sort of covering on themself during surgery. With your vest and shirt potentially covered on blood and matter, when you find time to wash? Plus the stench after a few hours let alone a few days."

    This is true. But even into the 19th century you could many times tell how experienced a surgeon was by how dirty his coattails were as they operated in their coats and wiped their instruments on the tails. In a field hospital setting you may not have all the niceties you would have in a general hospital. However, if I was going to use an apron I would probably elect to use one made out of rubberized cloth. Cotton or linen aprons wouldn't protect you for long and would be a pain to clean. They had better uses for leather in the army and rubberized cloth would clean up easier. Now I'm sure I am not much smarter than those guys back then but I would probably have one or several made for me just so I could stay relatively clean. After all surgeons were still in the officer corp and were expected to conduct themselves appropriately, remembering they were supposed to be gentlemen.
    Last edited by retter; 08-10-2011 at 03:33 PM. Reason: correct spelling
    your obedient servant,
    Rick Etter
    Surgeon, 2nd Brigade
    Southern Division
    SOCWS

    "not really a surgeon, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    3

    Default RE: Surgical aprons

    In his book, Doctors in Blue, Adams has on page 118 a passage attributed to General Carl Schurz that includes, "There stood the surgeons, their sleeves rolled up to their elbows, their bare arms as well as their linen aprons smears with blood...". He doesn't specify which of his may sources listed at the end of the book contains this quote.

  7. #7
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    Aug 2011
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    Default

    In Doctors in Blue there's a quote about surgeons having blood on their linen aprons. Otherwise, I don't recall any specific comments about aprons in my reading so far.

  8. #8
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    Default

    Others exhumed the struggling garrison, such as were living, and curried back the prisoners to our lines, where ammunition-carts and ambulances were hurrying to and fro; while the white coverlets of thousands of hospital beds were turned down, and army surgeons, with aprons on, and instruments in hand, and sleeves rolled up, were quietly waiting the bloody " harvest of death."
    A Youth's History of the Rebellion ...: From the massacre at Fort ... - Page 152
    Makepeace Thayer - 1866

    Where everything depends upon the enemy being taken by surprise, minutes acquire the value of hours; but the troops were allowed to consume an hour in reversing the slope of the intrenchments and in extending them, in digging out and mounting two guns, in rescuing such of the garrison as were still living, and in carrying them to the Federal lines, where the army surgeons were in quiet readiness, with sleeves rolled up, aprons on, and instruments and every appliance at hand, awaiting the opportunity to render their humane services.
    The war with the South: a history of the late rebellion: Volume 3 - Page 463
    Robert Tomes, Benjamin George Smith - 1862

    If you search Google Books for the terms surgeon and apron you will find that they go hand in hand, the apron is pretty much a sign that you are a surgeon a symbol of your profession. An interesting bit of advice in one book was to not wear your apron when delivering a baby as it would frighten the mother, the apron would indicate the doctor expected trouble.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

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