Pictured, from left to right, are a chloroform drop flask, a drop bottle with a control valve manufactured by Pilling & Son, and one of unusual, alembic form. Introduced just one year after ether, chloroform was the second drug to be used as a modern surgical anesthetic. In 1831, chloroform was ‘discovered’ almost simultaneously by Samuel Guthrie in the USA, Eugene Soubeiran in France and Justus von Liebig in Germany. In 1847, Dr. James Young Simpson, a Scottish obstetrician, began administering it to women for pain during childbirth. Chloroform quickly became a popular anesthetic for surgery and dental procedures as well.
A wide variety of bottles were used to store and administer chloroform. Chloroform was often administered by pouring it onto a cloth or sponge which was then held over the patient’s nose and mouth. To refresh the cloth, chloroform was applied drop by drop. Eventually wire masks and inhalers, which kept the soaked cloth away from the patient’s skin, were used to administer anesthetics.
These bottles are part of the Eric Webb Collection. Dr. Webb's generous gift was facilitated by Lucien Morris, M.D., Roderick Calverley, M.D. and the WLM Honorary Curator, George Bause, M.D. Also see the chloroform tin
from a 'U.S. Army Surgeon’s Field Companion' kit.