|Above: A bloodletting knife that would have been used by a Barber Surgeon to treat patients.|
Blacksmith, Tinsmith, Carpenter, Lumberman, Shoemaker, Doctor, or weaver – The list goes on. For every pioneer trade, there are a multitude of tools that go with it. Every Tuesday, we will feature a tool from the collection. Some, like this bloodletting knife, may seem outlandish today, but was considered essential for a doctor or “Barber Surgeon” in the 19th century.
The process of bloodletting was the release of large amounts of blood from either veins or major arteries and it was believed to cure many ailments. This process of removing blood from the body to purge toxins from the system can also be traced back as far as 1000 B.C.E. when people were looking for explanations for many bodily illnesses of the time. Although today this is viewed as absurd, it was regarded as a common treatment for almost 2000 years.
During the 19th century, bloodletting had become such a widely used operation that barbers, which were the surgeons of the time, began to advertise their ability to perform such tasks. A person would have the local doctor attend their home and often times he would recommend a session of bloodletting, at which the patient would travel to the local barber surgeon to have the procedure done. This medical treatment was used right up until the late 1930s, but quickly people were discover that it was often making people more ill or even in some extremes death.