Perfect Mask

WLMD ID: amen
Frederick Field Robinson, D.D.S., was born in England in 1858, and earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1884. That same year, he moved to Bordeaux, France. There he collaborated with Dr. Georges Rolland to promote Rolland’s powerful new inhalation anesthetic, Somnoform, introduced in 1901. Somnoform was a mixture of ethyl chloride, methyl chloride and ethyl bromide. Two years later, they developed an inhaler for use with this and related agents such as ethyl chloride. Called The Perfect Mask, the inhaler was made in France.  In 1903, Robinson introduced the device in England.

The clear glass mask had the advantages of providing a view of the patient’s nose, lips, and mouth, and of being easily sterilized.  Glass anesthesia masks had been introduced as early as 1850, and were used through the 1920s; but those permitted the flow of air.  The technique promoted by Rolland and Robinson involved the exclusion of fresh air and the buildup of carbon dioxide, by using a rebreathing bag.  (Only the frayed ends of the bag remain tied to this mask.) Robinson claimed that this did not cause cyanosis (turning blue from lack of oxygen) or any other distress to the patient.  But in the same year that this inhaler was introduced, other dentists reported mixed results.  Several noted that patients “objected strongly” to Robinson’s method, and that there could be “a good deal of struggling and rigidity.”  Despite its drawbacks, the Perfect Mask continued in use for at least a decade.

Catalog Record: Perfect Mask

Access Key: amfj

Accession No.: 1998-09-08-1

Title: The Perfect Mask.

Author: Robinson, Frederick Field, born 1858.
Author: Rolland, Georges.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Dr. Field Robinson’s Perfect Mask.

Publisher: [Bordeaux, France] : [Maison Gendron,] [between 1903 and 1920]

Physical Descript: One inhaler : glass, metals, textiles ; 15.5 x 9 x 12 cm.

Subject: Inhalers, Anesthesia – France.
Subject: Anesthesia, Inhalation – instrumentation.
Subject: Ethyl Chloride.
Subject: Methyl Chloride.
Subject: Ethyl Bromide.
Subject: Somnoform.

Note Type: General
Notes: Dumont states “construit par M. Gendron d’apres les dessins memes de M.
Robinson” (1904, p. 236), i.e.: “made by Mr. Gendron from Mr. Robinson’s own
designs.” Maison Gendron, founded 1814, was a manufacturer of medical
equipment in Bordeaux, France.

Note Type: With
Notes: 1 carrying case: wood, paper, metals ; 12 x 21 x 15.5 cm.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Claudius Ash, Sons & Co., Ltd. Anaesthetic apparatus: list K. London:
Claudius Ash, Sons & Co., Ltd.; June, 1908:K58-K61. In: Catalogue. [London]
: Claudius Ash & Sons; [ca. 1909].

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Society of Anaesthetists British Journal of Dental Science and Prosthetics.
May 15, 1903;46(848):476-478. https://books.google.
com/books?id=EvS2AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed
September 23, 2015.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Dumont FL. Traité de l’Anesthésie Générale e Locale. Paris: Baillière, 1904.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Fleming, C. On a simple apparatus for the inhalation of chloroform. Dublin
Medical Press 1850;24:292.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Gendron, F. Catalogue Général Illustré. Bordeaux: Impr. Grounouilhou,1889.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Gray WO. Somnoform v. nitrous oxide. Australian Journal of Dentistry. April
29, 1905;9(4):110-114.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Muller, J. Änasthetika: Ueber die verschiedenen, gebrauchlichen Änasthetika
ihre Wirkungsweise und die Gefahren bei ihrer Anwendung. Berlin: Mitscher
& Rostell, 1898.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Office of Alumni Records. Located at: University Archives and Records Center,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Robinson, F. Comparative notes on the administration of somnoform. Dental
Cosmos. January 1904;46(1):24-28. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/dencos/acf8385.
0046.001/28:13?didno=ACF8385.0046.001;rgn=full+text;view=image;q1=robinson.
Accessed September 23, 2015.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: As advertised by Ash in 1908, the inhaler, “complete in box”, consisted of
the mask, two face pads, the choice of one India-rubber bag or four cecum
bags, and one box of lint diaphragms; Each of these parts were also sold
separately; At the time of acquisition, only the box and the body of the
inhaler remained;
The mask is made of glass that is approximately .5 cm thick throughout, and
thicker at the rim; It has a domed, teardrop shape, narrowing to a long neck;
The rim is steeply curved; When resting on the rim, the dome and neck tilt
backward, and the front edge of the rim stands 3 cm higher than the back;
A small patch of red residue adheres to the back of the glass rim (the
remains of a rubber face pad);
The proximal opening of the mask is 10 cm long at its longest point and 7.5
cm wide at its widest point; The dome is 6 cm high at its highest point,
where it meets the neck; The neck is approximately 9 cm long; The proximal,
or bottom, end of the neck appears to be approximately 3.5 cm in diameter;
This narrows to approximately 2 cm at the distal, or top, end;
The distal end of the neck is crowned by a metal ring; The center of this
ring is crossed by three small struts that hold a removable screw; When in
use, this end of the neck would be covered by a rebreathing bag made of
rubber or cecum; The frayed remnant of a cecum bag is tied around the neck of
the inhaler; Holding this in place is a band of cloth, secured by a long
piece of red string;
A lint diaphragm is held in place at the bottom of the neck by a removable
metal fitting. The foot of this part consists of a circle with crossbars;
This is attached to a rod that rises through the neck of the mask; At the top
of the neck, this rod is fixed in place by the screw; The screw is easily
removed and replaced, allowing the removal of the foot-with-rod for
sterilization, and replacement of the lint;
An oval opening in the right side of the neck holds a metal compartment or
“box” with a hinged lid; The opening is 4 cm high by approximately 2 cm wide;
The exterior of the box extends outward 2 cm from the glass; A metal strut
is mounted inside the box so as to accommodate an ampoule of liquid agent,
while at the same time restraining it from falling into the mask; At the time
of acquisition, the inner side of the lid on the metal box was lined with a
thin layer of a putty-colored substance (perhaps rubber). Time and handling
have caused this material to flake off bit by bit, leaving only a residue
over patches of black oxidation;
After the insertion of an ampoule, the firm closing and latching of the
compartment lid would break the ampoule, releasing its contents onto the
lint; The lint, in turn, was expected to retain any broken pieces of glass,
keeping those from touching, or being inhaled by the patient;
The front of the mask is stamped to form the words “The Perfect Mask,
Patented”; On the back, just above the rim, the glass is stamped to form the
word “Depose” (the French word meaning “patent application filed”).

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch, January 12, 2015.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Frederick Field Robinson, D.D.S., was born in England in 1858, and earned his degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in 1884. That same year, he moved to Bordeaux, France. There he collaborated with Dr. Georges Rolland to promote Rolland’s powerful new inhalation anesthetic, Somnoform, introduced in 1901. Somnoform was a mixture of ethyl chloride, methyl chloride and ethyl bromide. Two years later, they developed an inhaler for use with this and related agents such as ethyl chloride. Called The Perfect Mask, the inhaler was made in France. In 1903, Robinson introduced the device in England.

The clear glass mask had the advantages of providing a view of the patient’s nose, lips, and mouth, and of being easily sterilized. Glass anesthesia masks had been introduced as early as 1850, and were used through the 1920s; but those permitted the flow of air. The technique promoted by Rolland and Robinson involved the exclusion of fresh air and the buildup of carbon dioxide, by using a rebreathing bag. (Only the frayed ends of the bag remain tied to this mask.) Robinson claimed that this did not cause cyanosis (turning blue from lack of oxygen) or any other distress to the patient. But in the same year that this inhaler was introduced, other dentists reported mixed results. Several noted that patients “objected strongly” to Robinson’s method, and that there could be “a good deal of struggling and rigidity.” Despite its drawbacks, the Perfect Mask continued in use for at least a decade.

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Society of Anaesthetists. Lancet. April 25, 1903; 1(pt 2):1168 1171.
https://books.google.
com/books?id=3rdMAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Robinson FF. General anesthesia. Dr. Field Robinson’s Perfect Mask, etc.
London: Claudius Ash & Sons; 1903.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website (Noted September 11, 2015).