Tag Archives: hospitals

Surgical Couture 2: Basic Black


After our last post about dramatic surgical styles, it’s hard not to think of Alexis Carrel, the man who really put the “theater” in “operating theater.” As divine as vintage white surgical gowns might be, the diabolical black shrouds preferred by Dr. Carrel surely have them beat.

Carrel, a French surgeon and Nobel Prize winner working in America in the 1920s and 1930s, believed that black aided the mental focus of his surgical team as well as visually highlighting any dust that might appear in the operating room. He therefore not only insisted his team dress head to toe in black, but even had the walls painted that color. The ominous aura did not go unnoticed by journalists covering Carrel’s surgical experiments, especially since that work involved keeping human organs alive outside the body — heady s stuff for an era fascinated with the mad scientists of pulp novels and early horror movies.

Appearing on the cover of Time Magazine only two months after the release of The Bride of Frankenstein, Carrel was treated both as a sinister curiosity and beloved celebrity, the latter in no small part due to his friendship with aviator Charles Lindbergh, who not only who assisted Carrel with the engineering of a perfusion pump necessary for the doctor’s transplant experiments but also shared some of Carrel’s more esoteric perspectives on shaping humanity’s future. These included the possibility of physical immortality and Carrel’s most unfortunate legacy — advocacy of eugenics.

More on that curious friendship can be found in David M. Friedman’s The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Their Daring Quest to Live Forever, the source of the picture above (via Depressed Metabolism.

Surgical Couture: Vintage White


V0030945 Wotton Lodge, Gloucester: operating theatre and staff.


Sure, contemporary blue or green surgical wear may be easier on the eye, but only the white wardrobe of yesteryear really moves us. So it was a great delight to discover the Flickr set of “Knuckles 45,” who obviously shares our appreciation for antique surgical styles. Savor for a moment these depictions of surgeons dressed the way God intended — in a color that evokes not only professional gravitas but the very power of angels, heaven, death and all things unseen.  And don’t even get us started on those hoods!


Even Then, It Must Have Looked Strange

Scary hospital clowns, bizarre devices, and cadaver lab pix are just some of the medically themed gems you can turn up while perusing the photos archives of the National Museum of Health & Medicine and the Library of Congress.

Violet wand use as physical therapy in military hospital. From the Flickr set of the Otis Historical Archives of the National Museum of Health & Medicine.


Dissection room, American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Circa 1936. Can’t you smell the formaldehyde? (Library of Congress)


Apparatus for measuring extension-flexion of the wrist. World War I. From the Flickr set of the Otis Historical Archives of the National Museum of Health & Medicine.

Children’s Hospital Circus. Washington, D.C., 1923.   How many children do you see smiling in this picture? (Library of Congress)


Photos from Linda Vista “Ghost Clinic”

Photo: Jon Alloway

Photos from Art of Bleeding’s “Ghost Clinic” installation at Linda Vista Hospital are now online.  This interactive scene was created as part of the Boyle Heights Paranormal Project’s “Walking with the Dead Tour” tour of the Linda Vista Hospital on March 4, 2011.  The hospital is widely regarded to be haunted.