Dr. Ralph Tovell’s Footlocker

WLMD ID: almu
Canadian-born Ralph M. Tovell, M.D. (1901-1967) came to the U. S. in 1929 as one of John S. Lundy, M.D.’s first residents at the Mayo Clinic.  He became a U.S. citizen in 1940, and served as President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in 1941.  He served as the Army’s Senior Consultant in Anesthesia to the Chief Surgeon, European Theatre of Operations, and attained the rank of Colonel.  He wrote the chapter on anesthesia in the official history of the Medical Department of the U. S. Army in World War II, published in 1956.  After the war he served as a Consultant in Anesthesiology to the Veterans Administration.  Dr. Tovell’s other accomplishments include serving as President of the American Board of Anesthesiology in 1947, Chairman of the AMA Section on Anesthesiology in 1948, and as President of the Academy of Anesthesiology in 1955.

Catalog Record: Dr. Ralph Tovell’s Footlocker

Access Key: almu
Accession No.: 2008-01-03-1 E

Title: [Footlocker of] Col. R.M. Tovell.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Dr. Tovell’s Army Footlocker.

Publisher: [Racine, Wisconsin?] : Wheary Incorporated, [between 1941 and 1942?].

Physical Descript: 1 trunk : fiberboard, metal, rubber ; 38.5 x 84 x 52 cm.

Subject: World War II.
Subject: Tovell, Ralph M.

Note Type: General
Notes: The date range for the possible year of manufacture of this trunk is based on
the year that the U.S. entered WW II (1941), and the year that Dr. Tovell
entered the Army (1942). The date range could change if documentation that
indicates the dates should be corrected is discovered. The date range could
change if documentation, or expert opinion, indicates that it should be

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Obituary: R.M. Tovell. Anaesthesia. 1967;22(2):362-363. https://onlinelibrary.
wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1967.tb02754.x/pdf. Accessed April 6, 2015.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Tovell RM. Anesthesia. In: John Boyde Coates, ed. Surery in World War II:
Activities of Surgical Consultants. Vol. 2. Washington, D.C: Office of the
Surgeon General, Department of the Army; 1964:581-621. https://history.amedd.
army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/actvssurgconvol2/chapter10.htm. Accessed April 6,

Note Type: Citation
Notes: We salute .. Ralph Moore Tovell, M.D. Anesth Analg. 1957;36(3):91.
aspx?txtkeywords=We+Salute+Ralph+Moore+Tovell. Accessed April 6, 2015.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One dark green trunk made of a waterproof fiberboard; The lid is secured to
the base with two hinges in back, one latch on each side, two latches in the
front, and one lock in the front; There is a handle on each side of the
trunk; White, painted lettering on the top of the trunk includes, “COL. R.M.
TOVELL. M.C. [new line] 1897 ASYLUM AVE. [new line] WEST HARTFORD #7 [new
line] CONN.”; Also painted on the top of the trunk is a red caduceus; Marked
on the right side of the trunk in grey lettering is, “COL. R.M. TOVELL [new
line] 0-431147”; Marked on the inside of the lid in orange and yellow is,

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Anesthesiologist Ralph M. Tovell, MD, (1901-1967) was a native of Ontario
Canada. After his residency, Dr. Tovell practiced from 1933 to 1936 at the
Mayo Clinic as assistant professor of anesthesia. In 1936 he moved to
Hartford, Connecticut were he established Hartford Hospital’s anesthesiology
department. Hartford is the city where the dentist Horace Wells first used
nitrous oxide as an anesthetic for dental procedures. Dr. Tovell practiced,
taught and conducted research at Hartford Hospital until 1963.

In 1940 Dr. Tovell became a U.S. citizen, and in 1942 he was commissioned to
serve the U.S. Army as Senior Consultant in Anesthesiology in the European
Theater. The footlocker described here likely traveled with Dr. Tovell to his
base of operations in England and during his visits to hospitals in North
Africa and the European continent.

In the course of his three years of service, Dr. Tovell visited and advised
military (general, evacuation, station and field) hospitals regarding the
organization and practice of anesthesiology. He also collected and evaluated
information and statistics, collaborated with Allied counterparts, and wrote
numerous reports with recommendations to the Chief Surgeon and other
superiors. He frequently described problems of incompatible anesthesia
equipment and supplies and became an ardent advocate for their
standardization. He found himself regularly reporting on a shortage of
trained and experienced anesthesiologists. Consequently, he recommended and
initiated improved training so that anesthesiologists were ready for the
situations for which their civilian training would not have prepared them.
Before his service ended, Dr. Tovell achieved the rank of colonel and earned
a Bronze Star.

Both before and after his military service, Dr. Tovell was active in numerous
professional organizations. He was president of the American Society of
Anesthesiologists in 1941, and president of the American Board of
Anesthesiology in 1947. He was also on the editorial board of the journal
“Anesthesiology” from 1940 to 1958.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch November 13, 2014.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Exhibited at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, October, 2014;
Selected for the WLM website.