Gardner Q. Colton Publicly Demonstrated Chloroform for Surgery in His Eclectic Exhibitions of 1848

Published:August 15, 2016DOI:
      This poster of 1848 announces that, for an admission price of 12 1/2 cents, “Doctor” Colton would continue his lectures and exhibitions for four evenings at Brinley Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts (see Fig. 1). The hall no longer stands but was potentially able to accommodate over 1000 patrons. In the anesthesia feature of the eclectic show, a surgical operation was to be performed on a rat under the influence of chloroform. The nature of that vivisection was left intriguing. Inhaled chloroform anesthesia had been publicly announced by Scottish obstetrician James Y. Simpson less than a year before the Colton show. For the demonstration of surgical anesthesia, chloroform would have been more practical than nitrous oxide because of potency and handling issues. At the time, nitrous was freshly prepared by users and stored in unpressurized bags and cans.
      Fig. 1
      Fig. 1Poster for chloroform exhibition by “Doctor” Colton in 1848. The image is preserved by the Boston Public Library in Massachusetts.
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