Dr. Frank LeMoyne’s lancet
Bloodletting has been used in the medical field for thousands of years. The Egyptians believed that by letting “sick” blood out, the body could then produce new, healthy blood. This idea remained through the generations.
In 1799, after developing a throat infection from inclement weather, George Washington asked to be bled. He would later die due to more than 3.75 liters of blood being let over a 10-hour period.
During the cholera epidemic of 1831, bloodletting was one of the primary methods of treating the illness, but because of a lack of understanding, or “overzealous” doctors, many patients died due to the body becoming increasingly weak from too much blood being let out.
During the Civil War, bloodletting again was used as a regular treatment for the variety of diseases and infections that had spread through the army. Often a lancet, a small pocket instrument, was used to create a small incision that the blood would flow through. The lancet pictured here was owned by Dr. Frank LeMoyne. LeMoyne, the son of well-known abolitionist Dr. Francis Julius LeMoyne, was a surgeon during the Civil War. This lancet and the medical kit he used during the war are on display in the Apothecary Shop in the F.J. LeMoyne House Museum.
Rod Weiss is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society.