The Civil War in Missouri

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N. S. Hamlin’s Patent Model for “Improvement in Physicians' Prescription-Cases.” Patent No. 36,710, October 24, 1862.

MHM Collections

Medical supplies needed in the field by army surgeons were contained in large, heavy chests and bulky panniers and had to be carried in wagons or by mules, making immediate accessibility to them a problem.Norman S. Hamlin’s patent provided a method to carry essential medicines in a protective wallet-size case. In his patent application, Hamlin claimed that this would be particularly advantageous for army surgeons, “enabling them to afford timely relief in many cases where a short delay would prove fatal.”Hamlin had firsthand knowledge of what would be useful to army surgeons in the field. After a brief tenure in the summer of 1861 with Crandall’s Company of the Missouri Home Guard, Hamlin was appointed a surgeon with the 18th Missouri Infantry Volunteers (Union). He cared for wounded soldiers on the hospital boat City of Memphis after the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, and was then sent to St. Louis’s General Hospital. Hamlin abruptly tendered his resignation that summer, citing an unspecified illness that left him unable to perform his duties. It is not known if Hamlin’s patent was widely produced or used by him or any other doctor during the war.