The portable medical kit is not a recent invention, as ancient Egyptian and Greek physicians used medical chests to hold their tools and medicines, and Hippocrates even wrote about a medical bag in detail. Medical kits have also been found in shipwrecks dating back to 1000 BCE. Early European physicians used boxes and chests to store their medical supplies, but the medical bag became the favored method for physicians to easily store and transport their instruments and medicines.
The modern portable medical bag was created in the mid-nineteenth century by J.G. Beard. Originally called a portmanteau bag, it became known as the Gladstone bag because the British prime minister William Gladstone was often seen carrying one. As physicians increasingly made house calls in the 19th century, the Gladstone bag served as a lightweight, portable doctor’s office, as it could easily hold and organize a variety of diagnostic tools and medicines. The Gladstone bag became a symbol of medical doctors, house calls, and physician dedication throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
For more information, you may contact the researcher(s) noted in the title of this exhibit entry, or Dr. Billie Follensbee, the professor of the course, at BillieFollensbee@MissouriState.edu