Pond Sphygmograph

WLMD ID: amye
Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring the patient's vital signs during surgery. American physician, inventor and entrepreneur Erasmus Arlington Pond, M.D. (1828-1889) made some of the first sphygmographs in the United States. Together with his son, Wallace R. Pond, M.D. (1855-1921), he obtained several patents for sphygmoscopes (blood pressure monitors that are applied directly to the body), and sphygmographs (blood pressure monitors that produce a record.)

The instrument shown here was patented in 1878, and was widely advertised. One such advertisement urged that it "should always be used when administering ether or chloroform." It used a needle to trace the body's motions on a strip of smoked mica, or paper. The instrument could be set in a frame that also held the patient's wrist or, when held between the finger and thumb, it could be positioned to record the movements of the heart, lungs, or muscles. The Pond Sphygmograph Company was located in Rutland, Vermont, where Dr. Erasmus Pond lived and practiced medicine. The device was also sold by several instrument companies in the United States and overseas through the 1890s.

Catalog Record: Pond Sphygmograph Pond Sphygmograph

Access Key: amye

Accession No.: 2001-03-04-3

Title: [ Pond sphygmograph] / [designed by Erasmus A. Pond].

Author: Pond, Erasmus Arlington, 1828-1889.

Corporate Author: Pond Sphygmograph Company.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Pond Sphygmoscope.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Pond’s American Sphygmograph.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Pond’s Improved Sphygmograph.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Pond’s New Phonographic Sphygmograph.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Pond’s Perfected Sphygmograph

Publisher: [Rutland, Vermont] : [Pond Sphygmograph Company], [between 1878 and 1900?].

Physical Description: 1 sphygmograph (2 pieces) : metals (including steel and nickel), (ivory?), (enamel?), paint ; 14 x 5 x 3.5 cm.

Subject: Blood Pressure Determination – instrumentation.
Subject: Blood Pressure – physiology.
Subject: Cardiovascular Physiology.
Subject: Cardiovascular System – instrumentation.
Subject: Monitoring – instrumentation.
Subject: Pulse – instrumentation.

Note Type: General
Notes: The first year in the date range is based on the date of Pond’s patent for this design. The second year in the date range is the latest year in which a published reference to the instrument was found.

The cataloged object is described in that orientation in which the instrument is most often illustrated, which is the recommended position for taking the pulse. The clockwork mechanism is at the top, while the foot (the end applied to the patient’s body) is at the bottom. The control knob of the clockwork mechanism faces forward, and the cradle that holds the recording medium is on the back.

Some of the parts described in the 1876 and 1878 patents, and elsewhere, are not present in this example. These include an additional tube that would have been filled with liquid, and an elastic membrane that would cover the foot of the instrument. The 1878 patent states that both the liquid and the membrane “may be dispensed with”. The cataloged object also lacks the frame that would hold both the patient’s wrist and the instrument.

Note Type: With
Notes: 1 wooden case, with hinged lid and metal closure, lined with purple velvet : 9 x 15 x 13.5 cm.; Measurement of total height is that with the open lid standing upright; When closed, height is 4.5 cm.; Measurement of total depth is that with the lid fully open; When closed, depth is 6.5 cm.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Arnold and Sons. Catalogue of Surgical Instruments. London: Arnold & Sons, 1885.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Arnold and Sons. Catalogue of Surgical Instruments and Appliances Manufactured by Arnold & Sons. London: Arnold & Sons, 1895.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Blake M. A History of the Town of Franklin, Mass. Franklin, Mass.: Published by the Committee of the Town, 1879:178-179.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Erasmus A. Pond, M.D. [Obituary]. Boston Med Surg J. June 6, 1889;120(23):572.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Metropolitan counties branch: North London district [Association Intelligence]. BMJ. July 12, 1879;2(967):73.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond’s improved sphygmograph [editorial]. Canada Med Surg J. February, 1879;84(2):335-336.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond’s improved sphygmograph! Canada Med Surg J. July, 1879; 84(7).

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Chadwick JE. Proceedings of the Suffolk District Medical Society. Boston Med Surg J. December 23, 1875;93(26):740-741.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Child H. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Rutland County, Vermont for 1881-82. Syracuse, NY: printed at the Journal Office, 1881.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Claremont Manufacturing Company. Walton’s Vermont Register and Farmer’s Almanac for 1877. Claremont, NH: Claremont Manufacturing Company, 1876:135-136.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Davis AB. Medicine and its Technology. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981:125-133.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond’s improved sphygmograph. Detroit Lancet. June, 1882;5(12).

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond’s improved sphygmograph: directions for use. Detroit Lancet. June, 1882;5(12):182.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Dowling JW. The sphygmograph. Trans Homeopathic Med Soc State of New York for the Years 1880 and 1881. Havana, New York: L. E. Keyser and Company, 1882:435.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Edes RT. A modification of the sphygmograph. Trans Assn Am Physicians, Fifteenth Session. 1900; 25:270-274.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Fothergill JM. The Heart and its Diseases, with Their Treatment: Including the Gouty Heart. Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1879:358.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Harris ED. A Genealogical Record of Daniel Pond, and His Descendants. Boston: William Parsons Lunt, 1873:182.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Knight EH. Knight’s New Mechanical Dictionary. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office (US). Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office, United States Army, Volume 13: Sialogogues-Sutugin. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1892:387.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Mayer and Meltzer. A Catalogue of Surgical Instruments and Hospital Requirements Manufactured and Sold by Mayer & Meltzer. London: Mayer & Meltzer, 1899.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Montague, J. H. Illustrated Catalogue of Surgical Instruments, Appliances and Cutlery, Manufactured and Sold by J. H. Montague. London: J. H. Montague, 1897.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Musser JH. A modification of the sphygmograph, being a change in the base of the instrument of Pond. Trans Med Soc Pennsylvania. 1884;16:268-273.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond EA, inventor. Improvement in pill-making machines. US Patent 9455, December 7, 1852.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond EA, inventor. Improvement in sphygmoscopes. US Patent 161821, April 6, 1875.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond EA, inventor. Sphygmographs. US patent 183205, October 10, 1876.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond EA, inventor. Improvement in sphygmographs. US Patent 205412, June 25, 1878.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Pond WR, inventor. Improvement in sphygmoscopes. US Patent 167785, September 14, 1875.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Sansom AE. Manual of the Physical Diagnosis of Diseases of the Heart, Including the Use of the Sphygmograph and Cardiograph, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Presley Blakiston, 1881:226, 232, 233.

Note Type: Original
Notes: Scott Alison S. The Physical Examination of the Chest in Pulmonary Consumption. London: Churchill, 1861.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Sharp & Smith. Catalogue of Sharp & Smith : importers, manufacturers, wholesale and retail dealers in surgical instruments, deformity apparatus, artificial limbs, artificial eyes, elastic stockings, trusses, crutches, supporters, galvanic and faradic batteries, etc. : surgeons’ appliances of every description. Chicago: Blakely Printing Co., 1889 529.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Simon T. Arlie Pond. Society for American Baseball Research website. http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/2d68aec2. Accessed August 18, 2016.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: George Tiemann & Co. The American Armamentarium Chirurgicum. New York: Charles H. Ludwig, printer, 1879:87.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: United States Army, Surgeon General’s Office. Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General’s Office. Vol. 13: Sialogogues-Sutugin. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1892.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Vermont State Business Directory and Gazetteer. Boston: Symonds, Wentworth & Co., 1899.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Woodbury F. Pond’s American sphygmograph. Med Surg Reporter. 1878;38(25):493-494.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One sphygmograph, consisting of a cylinder with two armatures, one armature being fixed and the other removable; The first, fixed armature has been damaged, causing it to lean rather than to stand fully upright, thus reducing the height of the instrument; The total measured height is that with the second, removable, armature in place; Without the second armature, the height is 13.5 centimeters; The total measured width is that with the second armature in place; Without the second armature, the width is 3.5 cm.;

The cap and the foot of the cylinder are made of metals; The middle portion of the cylinder appears to be made of ivory, and is painted with graduation marks that are numbered, from top to bottom, “4, 8, 12, 16”; The middle of the cylinder is covered with a “movable sleeve”, that is painted, or enameled, robin’s egg blue; The graduation marks are revealed when the sleeve is pushed down towards the foot; There is a double metal ring around the sleeve which serves to hold the instrument upright when it is inserted in the associated frame (the frame is missing from this example);

The foot of this cylinder is an oval-shaped bell, set at a right angle to the armatures; Inside this bell, the apex of the dome, where it joins the cylinder, has two long sots; The strip of metal between these slots is pierced by a small hole that admits a delicate rod that would be moved by contact with the body; This rod slides easily up and down;

The cap of the cylinder holds the lower end of each armature; The first, fixed armature consists of a thin, elbow-shaped rod, with the short arm extending through the cap and out the other side; The long, upright, arm of the rod is topped by the clockwork mechanism that holds and moves the recording medium; The short arm of this rod has a small hole into which the second armature can be inserted; The second armature consists of a very delicate, counterweighted rod that is topped by the jointed pin that inscribes the record; The bottom end of this second rod fits into a small hole on the short arm of the first rod;

The clockwork mechanism for moving the recording medium is enclosed in a disc-shaped housing that is 3.5 centimeters in diameter and approximately .5 centimeter deep; Extending from the front of this housing is a control knob; The number “316” is stamped on the rim of the housing, near the control knob; Opposite to this mark, a small, pointed indicator extends through an opening in the rim of the housing; This indicator can be toggled up and down within a span of just a few millimeters; Extending from the back of the housing is a post approximately 2 centimeters long; Below this post, an L-shaped bar is screwed to the back of the housing; The long arm of this bar is stamped with the number “316”; The short arm of this bar is affixed by a pin to the back of the post; Attached to this bar is a wire cradle that would support the recording medium.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch, January 12, 2016.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring a patient’s vital signs during surgery. Instruments that could produce a record of blood pressure were first described in the 1840s. Many more were introduced over the following decades, most of them in Europe. Physician, inventor and entrepreneur Erasmus Arlington Pond, M.D. (1828-1889) produced some of the first sphygmographs made in the United States. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1853, and served as President of the Vermont Medical Society. He obtained a patent for a pill-making machine in 1852. In April, 1875, he obtained a patent for a sphygmoscope (a blood pressure monitor applied directly to the body.) In September of that year, his son, Wallace R. Pond, M.D. (1855-1921), obtained a patent for a further development of the sphygmoscope. (By that time, his son was living in California, where he spent the rest of his life.)

Two months later, Dr. Erasmus Pond introduced a version of the sphygmoscope somewhat different from either of those patented designs. It was noted that his design was “identical to that devised by Scott Alison”, which had been described in 1861. Dr. Pond replied to this criticism that his was one of “more than twenty instruments” that he and his son had made, and enlarged on this by stating that he had “affixed to his pattern a recording apparatus, so that it was now both a sphygmoscope and a sphygmograph.” (Chadwick, p. 742.) Erasmus Pond was granted patents for yet more developments of the sphygmoscope in 1876 and 1878; both of these were sphygmographs (blood pressure recording devices.)

The Pond Sphygmograph Company was located in Rutland, Vermont, the same town where Dr. Pond lived and practiced medicine for 37 years. The cataloger found the company name in advertisements dating from 1879 to 1882. The cataloger also found the company listed in local directories from 1881 through 1891. No later directories were found predating an 1899 state directory, which does not list the company.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: The cataloged object is an example of the design patented in 1878. It could be used either by holding it between a finger and thumb of one hand, or by attaching it to a frame, called a “holder”, that left both the operator’s hands free. The frame included a “cradle” for the patient’s wrist, with the palm facing upwards; this was the recommended position for recording the pulse. Without the frame, it could be applied to the body in any of several positions, to record the motions of the heart, lungs, or muscles.

The body’s motions were transmitted to a delicately poised needle. The needle traced these motions onto slides made of smoked mica, or onto strips of smoked paper, recording “the story which the pulse writes of itself” (Detroit Lancet, 1882.) In this example, the clockwork mechanism for moving the recording medium forward under the needle is enclosed in a disc-shaped housing. A bar on the back of this casing holds a wire cradle to support the paper or mica. This design appears in several publications. It is quite different from that in the 1876 patent. The mechanism is not illustrated in the 1878 patent.

The company’s undated publications call the apparatus “Pond’s Improved Sphygmograph”, “Pond’s New Phonographic Sphygmograph” and “Pond’s Perfected Sphygmograph”. The name “Pond’s Improved” appears in other publications dating from 1878 to 1882; the name “Pond’s American Sphygmograph” appears in publications dated 1878 (Woodbury) and 1897 (Montague), and the name “Pond’s New Phonographic” appears in two publications dated 1879 (BMJ, and Fothergill.) While these names may represent some variations, accompanying illustrations show that device patented in 1878. An 1882 advertisement in the Detroit Lancet stated that the instrument was made of nickel-plated steel, and that the case was made of black walnut and lined with velvet.

Pond’s sphygmograph was noted in textbooks and other medical literature, from the late 1870s through the 1890s. In 1882, Dowling said it “has been so extensively advertised that it is probably familiar to all.” An 1879 advertisement in the Canada Medical and Surgical Journal urged that the instrument “should always be used when administering ether or chloroform.” It was also sold by the English surgical instrument makers Arnold & Sons, Mayer & Meltzer and Montague, the American instrument firms Sharp & Smith and Tiemann, as well as the pharmaceutical house Parke, Davis & Co. Modifications of the Pond Sphygmograph were introduced by Richardson in 1879, Musser in 1884, and Edes in 1900. The cataloger found no references to the Pond Sphygmograph in contemporary literature after 1900.

Dr. Pond’s grandson and namesake, Erasmus Arlington (“Arlie”) Pond, M.D. (1873-1930) was better-known. “Arlie” Pond was a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. His baseball career ended with his service in the U. S. Army during the Spanish-American War. He spent the rest of his life practicing medicine in the Philippines.

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Pond Sphygmograph Co. Pond’s Improved Sphygmograph. Rutland, VT: Tuttle & Co., printers, 1877.

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Pond Sphygmograph Co. Pond’s New Phonographic Sphygmograph. A pocket instrument adapted to the physician’s daily use. Rutland, VT: Tuttle & Co., printers, [by 1892].

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Pond Sphygmograph Co. Pond’s Perfected Sphygmograph. Detroit: [Parke, Davis & Co.?], [by 1892].

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Richardson BW. The sphygmophone: an invention of a method for making the movements of the pulse audible by the telephone. Medical Times & Gazette. 1879;1:585.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website.