Inhalation of ethereal vapor painless reduction of a dislocated shoulder joint under its influence.

[Association photograph]


Parkman, Samuel, III, 1816-1854.

Boston : David Clapp, Proprietor and Publisher, 1846.

Journal : Boston Medical and Surgical Journal ; vol. 35, no. 20 (Dec. 16).

Description : p. 409-10 ; 22.7cm.

Photograph (association) : Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 1.

Photographer : Josiah Johnson Hawes (18081901).

Subject : Humerus — Dislocation ; reduction.
Notes :



Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 1.

Parkman1846

Number tags added for the following attributions: 1.) Charles Bertody–unverified, 2.) Solomon David Townsend, 3.) Charles Frederick Heywood–unverified, 4.) Augustus Addison Gould, 5.) John Call Dalton, 6.) William Eckels, 7.) Samuel Parkman, 8.) Jonathon Mason Warren, 9.) Henry Jacob Bigelow, 10.) Daniel Denison Slade, 11.) ward attendant.

•      •      •

Eventually, the historical record for Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 1 will be cleared of the inanities pronounced about its origin as a "Reenactment Daguerrotype" of the seminal Abbott operation, or that it is William T. G. Morton who is the anesthetist holding the glass globe charged with "Letheon" (diethyl ether) in his hand, while steadying the patient's head with his other hand. John Collins Warren was Abbott's surgeon on October 16, 1846, when the "enchanted goblet" of ether anesthesia entered into the surgical armamentarium, but it is Warren's son, Jonathan Mason, who is in the frame, not the father. For the scholarship that identifies EDD No. 1 with Dr. Samuel Parkman's operation on December 9, 1846, see my paper, "Notes on the iconography of the first ether surgeries" published on these pages: »»

Parkman's treatment of a dislocated shoulder, sustained by a "stout healthy" carpenter named William Eckels, constitutes the third classical report on etherization published by the Boston Medical & Surgical Journal.(1: »»)   The patient's name was pulled from the MGH records and published in Hodges's history of etherization, noting that it was Dr. Parkman's first ether surgery, but neglecting to include the report in the appended bibliography of early ether literature he considered "important."(2: »»)  According to Bigelow's tables, Parkman etherized two cases of dislocation in 1846, both reductions of the humerus; the first occurring on December 9th for treating Eckels, and the second on December 22nd for treating a 58-yr-old female. Parkman's historic paper on Eckels was abstracted by John Collins Warren in his monograph on ether, where the carpenter is identified by the statement that he had "already resisted powerful efforts for reduction without ether," a reference to a failed reduction at the hands of a private practitioner on the day prior to his entering the hospital.(3: »»)   Warren was impressed by the beneficial side effects of ether for relaxing the muscles "with a moiety of the power" required in reduction of a dislocated joint, but the greater significance of Parkman's classical report was in demonstrating the innocuity and effectiveness of ether for use in even a minor surgery.

Why choose a junior Visiting-surgeon, and not a senior surgeon, to premiere the very first photograph of an ether operation? If the Ether Dome Daguerrotype No. 1 depicts an actual operation and the junior surgeon is Samuel Parkman, then the answer is predicated on what his family meant to Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston and Harvard medical communities. Samuel Parkman was the third namesake of the ultra-rich land baron Samuel Parkman, the First. His father, Samuel Parkman II, was one of the founding fathers of Massachusetts General Hospital and the hospital's first elected Vice President, although he declined the honor. His uncle George was a prominent philanthropist, who donated the land and actively supported the construction of MacLean Hospital that later split off MGH, and he was the foremost benefactor to MGH. He also donated the land for the construction of Harvard Medical College.

The pictorial correlates that identify Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 1 as a depiction of Parkman's reduction of dislocated shoulder include:   1.) Parkman poses as the lead physician with his hand on the surgical chair,   2.) Though not named, the etherizer can be identified as John Call Dalton,   3.) The carpenter, Eckels, pivoted his body in the surgical chair to best favor the treatment for a left dislocated shoulder (reversed in the daguerreotype),   4.) He presents the clinical posture for a dislocation by holding his injured arm securely in the grip of the opposite hand,   5.) The patient matches the physical description of a "stout healthy carpenter,"   6.) It is evident his shirt was removed for the operation,   7.) the Physical appearance of the patient is correct for a 30-yr.-old,   8.) Etherization was conducted "under the superintendence of the house physician, Dr. Bertody," who I believe is Figure 1.

A dislocated shoulder was a relatively minor surgery, devoid of complications, and provided a perfect opportunity to arrange a spontaneous photo-session. It was an unscheduled urgent care procedure, no other surgeries were on the docket that day and classes at Harvard were just beginning, so the bleachers were void of spectators. There was a lapse of three hours from the time of Eckels's admission at 6:00pm to the moment of his procedure at 9:00pm, affording ample time for Hawes to gather his gear and arrive at the surgical amphitheater to set up his camera.(4)   Just as he had functioned previously for the Abbott operation, House-surgeon Charles Heywood was dispatched to summon Morton, whose dental office was conveniently located a few doors down from the Southworth & Hawes studio on Tremont Row. Morton and his family lived close by in accommodations provided by Gould, whose residence was also located on Tremont. For some reason, Gould arrived at the hospital but Morton was unavailable, and so either Dalton or Bigelow had to step in as the etherizer. Both men were well experienced in administering ether through their extensive experiments with a replica glass-globe, though neither men were named in Parkman's report. Completing the proposed scenario of an actual operation, the photograph was taken immediately post-op with Eckels dressed, but still groggy from the ether. It was early evening with only suboptimal spot-lights illuminating the surgical arena, thus explaining the deep shadows and stark highlights in the daguerreotype.

Because he published very little, Parkman's place in the Ether Dome saga was completely overshadowed by the Warrens, Hayward, and Bigelow. His name is entirely omitted in the eulogisms of ether's arrival in the surgical arena, no more than a footnote in most historical documents when it does appear. Appallingly, his paper is even missing in the Index Medicus! Moreover, his premature death so soon after the scandalous murder of his uncle, George Parkman, draped palls over the good offices of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, likely leading to the quiet suppression of the Parkman name and the daguerreotype.


1.)Parkman, S (1846), "Inhalation of ethereal vapor – painless reduction of a dislocated shoulder joint under its influence." In: Boston Medical and Surgical Journal; vol. 35, no. 20 (Dec. 16), 409-10.

2.) Hodges, RM (1891), "A Narrative of Events Connected with the Introduction of Sulphuric Ether Into Surgical Use." Boston: Little, Brown, and Company; p. 148.

3.) Warren, JC (1848), "Etherization: With Surgical Remarks." Boston: William D. Ticknor; p. 46.

4.) Haridas, RP (2023); Recorded in the MGH case book. Eckels slipped and fell at around 10:00pm on December 8. Duration of the injury to time of cure was 20 hours. The information and clarifications on the chronology come from Dr. Rajesh P. Haridas by way of our personal correspondence.




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