Bly, Douglas. A New and Important Invention, by Douglas Bly, M.D. By Frequent Dissections, Dr. Bly Has Succeeded in Embodying the Principles of the Natural Leg in an Artificial One, and in Giving it Lateral, or Side Motion at the Ankle, the Same as the Natural One. By So Doing, Has Produced the Most Complete and Successful Invention Ever Attained in Artificial Legs. Rochester: Press of Curtis, Butts & Co., Union and Advertiser Office, 1862.
This pamphlet has 30 pages. 22.5 cm. Wrapper bound into an additional paper binding. Back cover has advertisements for Braithwaite’s Retrospect: a Half Yearly Journal of Practical Medicine and Surgery, published by W.A. Townsend, New York; The Chicago Medical Examiner, a monthly, N.S. Davis, M.D. editor; and, The American Medical Times, a weekly, published by Bailliere Brothers, New York. Illustrated with 10 illustrated pages. Hand-correction of a misprint on p. 50: the address of Dr. Bly was corrected twice to No. 658 Broadway rather than the mis-printed “746.” This copy was deaccessioned from the University of Rochester Library of the School of Medicine and Dentistry in the 1980s. The title page bears the embossed stamp “University Library, Rochester, N.Y.” A book inventory number is also present on the title page, and a Library of Congress Dewey Decimal System call number, no longer in use by the library, is penciled on the first page of Dr. Bly’s description of his invention, with a small “Medical Library” stamp, not affecting the text. The original pamphlet binder with reader’s and catalogue cards are sold with the pamphlet. On the verso of one is the annotation “Bly 2nd copy – not a transfer.” The Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser was in business from 1860 – 1885.
Dr. Bly’s patented invention as advertised in this Civil War era pamphlet was an improvement over the Palmer leg patented in 1851, and the Bly leg took the award, diploma and large medal at the New York State Fair in 1858. However, the Bly leg was expensive because it had a universal joint, made from a polished ivory ball and vulcanized india rubber, in his ball and socket ankle; and, as a result, his pitch to the United States government resulted in the government telling army amputees they could pay the additional cost of Dr. Bly’s superior prosthetic out-of-pocket because the cost was considered too great, given the huge number of amputations, for the United States government to pay.
The pamphlet is a collection of first-person testimonials of doctors and patients, one of whom was a Union Soldier, who wrote to Dr. Bly:
“Camp —, Dec. 10, 1862
I think I did well to be sworn into the service without being found out, or even mistrusted. I am in ___ Regiment ___ Brigade. After we travelled two hundred miles, I told Capt. ___ that I wore an artificial leg, and he was utterly amazed. He said no one would think of such a thing to see me, and as it was, nothing should be said as long as I did my duty. Give my respect to your workmen, and tell them that I would not be without the “ball and socket” for anything. Yours ever, _________ _______ .
P.S. You must not tell my name nor regiment, because it will be ‘all day’ with me if Uncle Sam finds out.”