Can you imagine being in pain and riding to the hospital in this?
It’s the first ambulance in the city (and reportedly the nation), launched in 1869 to ferry the sick and injured to Bellevue Hospital.
The idea for an ambulance service came from a Civil War surgeon, who realized that hurt soldiers would be brought to medical tents via flimsy stretchers and carts, which often resulted in further injuries.
After the war, Dalton was hired by the Department of Charities and Corrections to start a civilian ambulance corp.
In June 1869, two lightweight, 800-pound vehicles hit the (often unpaved and muddy) streets.
“Ambulances were staffed by a driver and an ‘ambulance surgeon,’ in fact, an intern fresh out of two years of medical school,” states emsmuseum.org.
What was inside? A rolling bed, surgical lamp, pillows, and blankets. Medical supplies included bandages, tourniquets, a stomach pump—plus a straitjacket, handcuffs, a flask of brandy, and drugs like amyl nitrate and morphine!
“In addition, the ambulance surgeon carried a black leather satchel containing hypodermic syringes, tracheotomy tubes, a Nealaton’s probe, catheters and dressings for minor wounds,” writes emsmuseum.org.
Instead of a siren on top, a bell operated by a foot pedal alerted pedestrians that the ambulance needed to get through. Telegraph communications let drivers know where to pick someone up.
As time went on, ambulances changed. The second photo is from 1895; the third, 1910.
The ambulance corp is another advancement from post-Civil War New York, a time of incredible modernization in the city. Read more about it New York City in the Gilded Age. [Photos: Museum of the City of New York; emsmuseum.org]