Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Douglass Patent Artificial Limbs


Darwin DeForrest Douglass (1828-1902). Douglass’ advertising pamphlet for his artificial limbs makes a point that, unlike the Salem leg, “these limbs have never been dependent upon the Government for their support, but are thoroughly established on the real and intrinsic merits of the invention.  This history of those cheap ephemeral substitutes known as ‘government legs’ is too well known to make any comments.”

During the early years of the war, DeForrest Douglass travelled to battle sites and met with Army surgeons, hoping to obtain government sponsorship for his artificial leg. In this letter to his wife, he describes conditions in Virginia and some of his meetings with the surgeons of the 44th New York Regiment.

Image 1: The Douglass Patent Artificial Limbs, D. DeForrest Douglass, Inventor and Manufacturer, Office, Burt's Block, Main Street, Springfield, Mass., 11th ed. (Springfield, Mass. : Samuel Bowles & Co., printers, 1869). Deposited by the Boston Public Library with the Boston Medical Library, 1906.

Image 2: Darwin DeForrest Douglass (1828-1902) Autograph Letter Signed : Washington, D.C., to Susan Douglass, Springfield, Mass.?], March 10, 1862. Purchased for the Boston Medical Library, 1973.


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