Help Identify Prosthetic Legs

kyle.dalton

Private
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Location
Frederick, MD
Here at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, we've got a number of artificial limbs in our collection. As we prepare to launch a fundraising campaign to stabilize and restore some of them, I was hoping you might be able to help with a couple mystery items. Do you recognize these artifacts? Any idea on who made them, where, or when?

2005008001-JPG634250008180000000.JPG

Artificial leg, 2005.008.001, from the collection of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
2005008001-2-JPG634250008360000000.JPG

Artificial leg, 2005.008.001, from the collection of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine


Prosthetic Leg 2018.002 Image 1.JPG

Artificial leg, 2018.002.001, from the collection of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
Prosthetic Leg 2018.002 Image 2.JPG

Artificial leg, 2018.002.001, from the collection of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
 
Joined
May 12, 2018
I’m not an expert, so I can’t identify anything by sight. That said, assuming (perhaps optimistically given how long many veterans lived) that all these limbs predate the turn of the century, I put together a list of all the pre-1900 patents on various artificial legs I could find. I roughly grouped them into decades with the war era ones in their own category. Of course, then and now, not every new product is patented, and many patented designs are not ever actually produced as consumer products. And there is of course the possibility that some of the limbs were custom created by their own users, who were ingenious men in their own right and determined not to let the loss of a limb slow them down.

But hopefully some of these patents drawings will help you identify unique design elements of these legs. I think it’s telling that there are so many legs, as opposed to other body parts that were lost in the war, it tells you something about both the wounds received by soldiers and where the doctors medical abilities could not save limbs. The data also shows that the decade after the war led to a huge boom in patents for artificial limbs.





1850-1860:



https://patents.google.com/patent/US7204?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US17888?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US25238?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US23656?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US29494?oq=artificial+leg





1861-65:



https://patents.google.com/patent/US37087?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US39361?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US39361?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US48660?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US39599?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US37637?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US47281?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US47281?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US40956?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US49234?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US43031?oq=artificial+leg



1866-77:



https://patents.google.com/patent/US55645?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US167779?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US56983?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US92031?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US193396?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US53931?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US111741?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US55459?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US168140?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US197943?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US173872?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/USRE2218?oq=artificial+leg



1884-1899



https://patents.google.com/patent/US302433?oq=artificial+leg







https://patents.google.com/patent/US316589?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US314726?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US622140?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US315519?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US556201?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US470431?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US616076?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US234597?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US572989?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US368580?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US295675?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US619716?oq=artificial+leg



https://patents.google.com/patent/US611812?oq=artificial+leg
 

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
These photos are a little after the ACW. Trumpeter Elmer A. Snow was shot through both arms at Rosebud River (Montana territory) on June 17, 1876 during the Indian Wars. The wire apparatus enabled him to write. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. National Library of Medicine photos.

nlm_nlmuid-101574172-img.jpg

https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-101574172-img

nlm_nlmuid-101573448-img.jpg

https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-101573448-img

It looks like his arms were later amputated?
SNOW-Elmer-A-600x793.jpg

Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association
https://www.agcra.com/ag-corps-soldiers-awarded-the-medal-of-honor/
 

lelliott19

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Could either be one of the models manufactured by D. DeForest Douglass in Springfield, MA?
1622430341252.png


1622430401360.png


I can't tell if either of the examples in the photos have cat gut and springs, but here's another model that was being produced by J. W. Weston in NY that had rubber joints and no cat gut or spiral springs.
1622431360902.png

The Daily Phoenix., December 08, 1865, page 4.
 
Last edited:

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
These photos are a little after the ACW. Trumpeter Elmer A. Snow was shot through both arms at Rosebud River (Montana territory) on June 17, 1876 during the Indian Wars. The wire apparatus enabled him to write. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. National Library of Medicine photos.

View attachment 402482
https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-101574172-img

View attachment 402483
https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-101573448-img

It looks like his arms were later amputated?
View attachment 402484
Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association
https://www.agcra.com/ag-corps-soldiers-awarded-the-medal-of-honor/
The man with his arms amputated is Samuel Decker.
"In 1862, Union soldier Samuel Decker was reloading his gun when it misfired and blew off half of both his arms. By 1865, he had designed and overseen the building of a set of state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs "hitherto unrivaled for [their] ingenuity and utility." With his new arms he was able to feed and clothe himself as well as perform even more challenging tasks such as picking up objects as small as a pin, and — almost as important as eating and dressing — he regained the ability to write."
https://twentytwowords.com/civil-war-veterans-ingenious-self-designed-mechanical-arms-3-pictures/
 
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