Surgical Saw

We have a surgical saw stamped "H.Disston, Philadelphia" in our History of Medicine Collection.

Henry Disston started selling saws in 1840 from a rented basement in Philadelphia. He built his company into the largest manufacturer of saws in the world. Disston was an innovative manufacturer and marketer, leading the way with products other companies tried to imitate. The saws' consistently high quality kept the company strong for another three generations after Henry Disston's death.

This type of saw is listed in the Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia as an Amputation Knife.

In the nineteenth century, the most common treatment for severe limb injury was amputation. In the days before antisepsis and antibiotics, the mortality from amputation was high.

Listen to Dr Sally Frampton, historian of medicine and healthcare from the Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, here: