by Alethea Drexler, archives assistant
I’m pleased to announce that we have cause to revisit the most recent Thingamjig!
I did what I often have to do when faced with an object about which I know so little I don’t even know where to start looking: I send emails. Lots of emails.
A few of them were just as stumped as was I, but I did get some possible answers.
The collective answer was that it is probably an inhaler. Nobody had seen this particular model before so they were hesitant to say so for certain, and we were not able to pinpoint what, exactly, would have been inhaled from it, but “possibly an inhaler” is an improvement over “unidentified”, all the same.
Similar inhalers were used during World War II to allow patients to self-administer tricholorethylene, an anesthetic painkiller. TCE also seems to have been used in obstetrical cases, although it was mostly phased out in the 1950’s. The attachment on the side of the cylinder might have allowed installation either of a mouth tube or of a nose-and-mouth mask, through which the fumes from the medication-soaked cotton wool could be breathed.
Thank you to the following for their help in (almost) identifying our Thingamajig:
Michele Lyons and Barbara Faye Harkins at the National Institute of Health Stetten Museum in Bethesda, Maryland. Ms. Lyons suggested that it might have been used for trichloroethylene.
Judith Robins and Karen Bieterman at the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
 Steel, C.G., M.R.C.S., Analgesia and Anaesthesia in Modern Obstetrical Cases, Postgrad Med J, July 1949, 25 (285): 319-324.