Most of us have experienced a broken a bone in our lives.  A trip to the hospital to receive a cast made from plaster and fiberglass to withstand the duration of the healing process is a common solution.[1] The evolution of orthopedics, the branch or medicine that focuses on injuries or diseases of bones, began all the way back in Ancient Egypt.  Using cloth, the Egyptians wrapped the injured bone in order to heal fracture correctly by holding it in place.[2]  The process of healing bones has evolved from using a simple piece of cloth to stabilize a fractured bone to creating full blown casts and inserting pins for healing support.  The question is, how did we get from a simple splint of cloth and wood to the advanced medical technology we see today?

Leg Splint, approx. 1850, A.M. Day, wood, brass, metal, The Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Edward Sheehan, F0134.1952(2)

Leg Splint, approx. 1850, A.M. Day, wood, brass, metal, The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Edward Sheehan, F0134.1952(2), Photograph by Cassidy Mickelson

It is hard for us to imagine a time when a doctor couldn’t simply create a cast for a broken bone, but there was once a time that splints were a bit simpler.  Almiron M. Day began manufacturing surgical supplies and splints in the 1850’s in Bennington, Vermont.[3]  Not only did he create the splint featured in this blog, he also patented a clavicle adjuster in 1854.[4]  His advancements in orthopedics and medical technology led him to be one of the most prominent medical suppliers of hospitals in the Civil War.

Leg Splint, approx. 1850, A.M. Day, wood, brass, metal, The Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Edward Sheehan, F0134.1952(2), Photograph by Cassidy Mickelson.

Leg Splint, approx. 1850, A.M. Day, wood, brass, metal, The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Edward Sheehan, F0134.1952(2), Photograph by Cassidy Mickelson.

This leg splint has several details that make it more usable for the wearer.  It is adjustable using brass knobs and the foot section of the split swivels for easier movement.  When studying the splint originally, I believed the it was a form of prosthetic, but after further inspection came to the conclusion it was a support splint.  I can’t imagine what nursing a broken leg back to health using this splint might have been like, but the success of A.M. Day leads me to believe his healing contraptions did the trick.

Now, we are lucky to have the medical technology to replace lost limbs, x-ray injured extremities and doctors capable of performing life altering surgeries.  It will be interesting to see what the medical field of orthopedics will come up with next!

[1] Stanford Children’s Health.”Cast Types and Maintenance Instructions.” accessed October 17, 2015. http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=cast-types-and-maintenance-instructions-90-P02750

[2] Science Clarified. “Orthopedics.” accessed October 16, 2015. http://www.scienceclarified.com/Oi-Ph/Orthopedics.html

[3] Facebook Inc. “Bennington Museum’s Facebook Page.” Last modified August 8, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2015. https://www.facebook.com/benningtonmuseum/photos/pb.37952462240.-2207520000.1445270075./10151099995787241/?type=3&theater

[4] ‪USA House of Representatives. House Documents, Volume 77, Page 1. ‪U.S. Government Printing Office, 1854.

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