Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Salem Leg

From: collections.countway.harvard.edu

The injuries and amputations of Civil War soldiers fostered a booming industry in the manufacture and marketing of artificial limbs, with over eighty new patents for artificial legs filed between 1861 and 1873.  The Salem Leg Company—Dr. Edward Brooks Peirson was the president of its board—achieved early prominence due to its recommendation by the government for the Army.  Promotional literature from these companies included testimonials from wounded veterans.  George T. Smith, a former soldier, wrote, “I work ten hours every day, and have to stand all of the time.  Besides that, I walk to and from my meals three times a day, and that is about three miles.  When you get any one to do as well on an artificial leg as that, let me know.  As to dancing, I have tried to three times; but as my leg had not been to school, I could not do it very well, but expect to before winter is over…. Had I friends in need of a limb, I would advise them to get a Salem Leg.”

Image: The Salem Leg, under the Patronage of the United States Government
(Salem, Mass. : the Company, 1866).
Deposited by the Boston Public Library with the Boston Medical Library, 1906.

Learn more about Civil War prosthetics at www.CivilWarRx.com.


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