We don’t know much about this doctor’s bag. It was manufactured by the Feick Brothers medical supply company, probably in the late 19th or early 20th century, in a manner common to the bags that family doctors carried during that time, but much beyond that remains a mystery. We aren’t sure whose bag it was, or how it came into the possession of UCSF Archives & Special Collections. Beyond being a doctor’s bag, we don’t know if it has any connection to UCSF at all.
Even the tools inside the bag invite more questions than give answers: Were all these tools original to this particular bag, or were more tools added after it fell out of use? Is that a bullet extractor scoop, a curette spoon, or a lithotomy instrument? And it seems to have a lot of instruments related to gynecology and child birth—could it perhaps have been the bag of some nameless OBGYN?
For archivists, who rely on provenance to establish historical context, these types of questions can be a little uncomfortable. Yet despite all its mysteries, this doctor’s bag remains a fascinating artifact—and it definitely has some very interesting things inside. It’s almost like unwrapping a gift to discover it is actually a puzzle!
Written by David Uhlich.
The doctor’s bag may have belonged to Dr. Beverly Cole, the dean in the 1880s who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. He died of a stroke in 1901.
Feick Brothers was in business from 1881 through about 1989 in Pittsburgh, PA. It was mostly a distributor of physician supplies but may have done some light manufacturing too.