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SPANISH AMERICAN WAR U.S. ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT FOLDING SURGICAL TABLE – A RARE 19TH CENTURY FIELD HOSPITAL FIXTURE IN VERY GOOD COMPLETE CONDITION:  The sort of early U.S. Army equipment that for a variety of reasons did not survive in significant numbers, this Spanish American War U.S. Army Medical Department Folding Surgical Table is an impressive piece of early army medical equipment.  Adjacent to the latch which holds the folded table closed is affixed a 3” by ¾” brass plate stamped “1898” and “U.S.A. M. DEPT.”, identifying this table as U.S. Army Medical Department equipment dating from the Spanish American War.   

Manufactured with a nicely finished furniture-grade oak wood frame which supports a suspended canvas litter, this folding table is a substantial medical fixture which would have been supplied in numbers necessary to equip an army field hospital during the Spanish American War.  The mortised joints and stout iron hinges and braces were designed to withstand the rigors of transport via wagon to the site of a field hospital and substantial enough to support the weight of a wounded soldier.   

Folded for transport, the stretcher measures 37 ½” long, 22” wide, and 6 ½” thick.  Extended to its full length with the legs folded down into position, the stretcher measures 75” long and approximately 20” high.  The portion of the stretcher which supports the patient’s head and torso adjusts on a pair of notched steel arms which allowed the patient to be raised from a supine position to sitting upright, depending on the requirements of his treatment and for his comfort.  The adjustment arms and the pins they engage are fully functional and intact.    

As noted above, this table features all the characteristics of well made furniture, typical of even the most functional medical, office, and business furnishings manufactured during the 19TH Century.  The corner joints are all mortised, the upper edge of the bed frame is contoured, and the legs were turned on a lathe with detail that was certainly more decorative than necessary.  The frame and legs are full form and all the joints are solid and intact.  When deployed to accept a patient, the table is very stable.   

All of the iron fittings, braces, and hinges are present, fully functional and intact.  The table is equipped with a heavy duty clasp to keep the unit closed and a carrying handle -  both fixtures that facilitated moving the table when folded up for transport to and from the hospitals.   

The suspended canvas litter section is fully intact, albeit showing some signs of use and aging.  There is one notable stain running across the lower end of the canvas which may very well be a blood stain based on its pattern and distribution – if so, evidence that this bed was used in a field hospital setting.  Otherwise, in spite of its age, the canvas has survived quite well with no damage or rot.   

Whether it was due to these tables being used in tropical climates – an environment which consumed so much of the Spanish American War equipment; that these tables were supplanted by improvements in medical equipment in the interest of sterile and antiseptic measures in wound treatment; or simply their size and weight argued for their replacement by lighter and more mobile treatment tables, these oak and canvas Medical Stretchers simply did not survive to appear on the modern collector’s market.   

This 19TH Century U.S. Army Medical Department Folding Surgical Table would be a key addition to any Spanish American War or military medical equipment display and would be very difficult to upgrade.  SOLD

(It is worth noting that the stamped date of 1898 is consistent with the notation of “U.S.A M. DEPT.” on the brass plate affixed to this table.  The army’s medical service was known throughout the 19TH century as the “Medical Department” until its designation was changed to “Medical Corps’ in 1908.)   



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