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2019

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Ether Inhaler (USA), ca. 1846

This is a Ether inhaler.

This object is not part of the Cooper Hewitt's permanent collection. It was able to spend time at the museum on loan from National Museum of American History as part of Tools: Extending Our Reach.

It is dated ca. 1846. Its medium is glass, horn, metal, textile wrapping, wooden base (not original to the object).

This device for administering anesthesia represents the first attempt to sedate surgery patients on a mass-scale. It consists of a glass vessel containing a sponge soaked with the evaporat¬ing chemical that the patient then inhaled through the tube. In the 1840s, Massa¬chusetts dentist Horace Wells introduced anesthesia into operations. After Wells’ death, fellow dentist William T. G. Morton experimented with the promising sedatives ether and chloroform, though ether smelled pungent and chloroform could cause sudden death. Nonetheless, Morton succeeded in pulling teeth painlessly from a patient under ether sedation and in 1846, another surgeon successfully removed a neck tumor. Within a year, this “anaesthestic”—a term coined by physician Oliver Wendell Holmes—was employed in nearly every surgery when available. Later designs of this simple two-necked glass tool limited administration of the gas to the patient, not to oth¬ers in the room as well.

It is credited Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. M-09244.

Our curators have highlighted 4 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Rum Flagon, 1932
  • yellow-tinted glass.
  • Museum purchase through gift of Estate of Ladislav Sutnar.
  • 2011-8-1-a,b

Its dimensions are

H x W x D (overall): 27.9 × 31.8 × 30.5 cm (11 in. × 12 1/2 in. × 12 in.)

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.

This object may be subject to Copyright, loan conditions or other restrictions.

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If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460307/ |title=Ether Inhaler (USA), ca. 1846 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=21 August 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>