De Ford Inhaler

WLMD ID: akns
Nasal inhalers deliver continuous inhalation anesthesia through the nose only, allowing free access to the mouth for dental procedures and oral surgery. The physician and dentist William Harper De Ford described his nasal inhaler in 1912. The following year, he patented it and assigned the rights to the dental supply manufacturer, E. de Trey & Sons, of Philadelphia. It featured a nasal mask with an additional, detachable piece to cover the patient's mouth. The mouth piece, with its delicate lever, is shown here. Together, the nose and mouth pieces could be used to administer nitrous oxide and oxygen. They could also be attached to a rebreathing bag for the administration of liquid Somnoform, a potent mixture of ethyl chloride, methyl chloride and ethyl bromide.

Catalog Record: De Ford Inhaler

Access Key: akns
Accession No.: 262 A

Title: [Mouth cover from] Dr. De Ford’s universal inhaler for somnoform nitrous oxide.

Author: De Ford, William Harper, 1858-1932.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: [Mouthpiece for] Dr. De Ford’s Universal Inhaler for somnoform or nitrous

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: DeFord Inhaler.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: De Ford inhaler.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: De Ford’s inhaler.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: DeFord somnoform appliance.

Publisher: Philadelphia : E. De Trey & Sons, [1912-1914].

Physical Descript: 1 mouthpiece : stainless steel ; 10.5 x 7 x 7 cm.

Subject: Anesthesia, Inhalation – instrumentation.
Subject: Inhalers, Anesthesia.
Subject: Nitrous Oxide.
Subject: Somnoforme.

Note Type: General
Notes: The early year in the date range for the possible year of manufacture is
based on the application date of the patent and on the date of the earliest
publication in which the inhaler was described, which was his 1912, “Lectures
on General Anaesthetics in Dentistry” published in Pittsburgh by Lee S. Smith
& Son. The later date is generously based on the fact that the inhaler is
marked with the manufacturer name “E. de Trey & Sons”. In 1913 E. de Trey &
Sons was bought by the Stratford-Cookson Company and the name was changed
with the purchase. The date range could change if documentation indicates it
should be corrected.

Note Type: General
Notes: The Waring Historical Library has a digital image of a more complete De Ford
inhaler available through the Lowcountry Digital Library website at

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Announcement: E. de Trey & Sons changes hands [advertisement]. Texas Dent J.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: De Ford WH, inventor; E. de Trey & Sons, assignee. Inhaler. US patent 1,050,
621. January 14, 1913. Accessed
March 31, 2014.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: De Ford WH. Somnoform. Lectures on General Anaesthetics in Dentistry.
Pittsburgh, PA: Lee S. Smith & Son Company; 1912:191-194.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: A small investment which brings big returns [advertisement]. Oral Hyg.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Westhorpe R. The De Ford Somnoform inhaler. Anaesth Intensive Care.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: You can control nervous patients vest with somnoform and the De Ford inhaler
[advertisement]. Texas Dent J. January, 1913;31(1):63.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One stainless steel mouthpiece, or mouth cover, for a De Ford inhaler; Shaped
a bit like a small oronasal mask without any inlet or outlet for air; The rim
is anatomically shaped to provide a seal around the mouth; A reticulating
connection is attached to the center of the exterior of the mouthpiece; In
the connection is a curved, thin metal bar measuring approximately 10.5 cm in
length and .3 cm in diameter except at each end; The superior end is shaped
for an attachment on the nasal portion of the inhaler; Manufacturer markings
are engraved on the exterior above and below the point where the connection
attaches to the mouthpiece; Above the connection is, “DR. DE FORD’S [new
connection is, “E. DE TREY & SON’S [new line] PHILA, PA, [new line] U.S. PAT.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch on June 11, 2013.

Note Type: Acquisition
Notes: Donated to the WLM by Eldon Bryant Tucker, MD.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: This is a mouth cover from a nasal inhaler designed for surgery in the mouth
or throat. Most inhalers delivered anesthetic through a mask that fit over
the nose and mouth, but nasal inhalers used a mask that fit over only the
nose. The use of a nasal inhaler allowed the anesthesiologist or dentist to
continue to administer anesthesia even when prolonged access to the patient’s
mouth was needed for a surgical procedure. The mouth cover, unique to the De
Ford Inhaler, was used to ensure that the patient inhaled anesthetic through
his nose rather than air from his mouth. The thin metal rod on the exterior
of the mouth cover was hinged to the nasal mask so that it could be pivoted
away from the mouth when surgery began. The inhaler was secured with a strap
around the patient’s head, and the tubing for the inhaler ran up and over the
patient’s forehead.

William H. De Ford (1859-1932), a dentist and physician, designed the mask to
be easily used with an anesthetic mixture called somnoform, but emphasized
that it could be used with other anesthetics as well. Dr. De Ford was the
Dean and a Professor of Oral Pathology and Anaesthetics at Drake University
in Des Moines, Iowa, and the author of the book, “Lectures on General
Anaesthetics in Dentistry,” which was first published in 1908 with a second
edition in 1912. He applied to patent the inhaler on February 20, 1912 and
assigned the patent to the company E. de Trey & Sons, of Philadelphia.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Chosen for the WLM website (noted September 10, 2013).