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By Stewart Emmens on

Help Us Unpack The Stories From This Doctor's Bag

Behind every Museum object there can be dozens of stories about the people who made and used it, or are otherwise linked to it.

In an upcoming exhibition about the relevance of our collections to family historians we’re going to use one object to illustrate that fact – and we’re hoping that you might be able to help us out.

Doctor's bag
A bag full of names (Science Museum)

We’re going to take this doctor’s bag and unpack some of the personal histories that are connected to it.

It was once the property of John Hill Abram (1863-1933), a physician based in Liverpool who was latterly a Professor of Medicine at the local University. We’ll be teasing out all other the names – and therefore people and places – connected with it, to uncover different faces, stories and events to create a web of connections.

We’re keen to gather images as well as anecdotes, stories and more general information that relate not simply to Prof Abram, but to the many companies and individuals mentioned in his bag – check out the list below.

The bag and its contents are dated 1890-1930 and this is the period we would like to focus on. Images and information that relates to individuals and companies may well fall outside 1890-1930 period, but ideally we’d like to keep the broader social content roughly within these dates. 

So, do you have photographs of a works outing in the 1920s? Did any of the companies below raise a brigade in WW1?  What did their factory look like in Edwardian times?

The people and companies with connections to the bag and its contents are:

John Hill Abram Professor & MD – Owner

Finnigan’s Ltd – Bag makers

White & Wright – Surgical instrument makers, Liverpool

Thomas Spencer Wells – Victorian physician and artery forceps designer

Alexander and Fowler – Surgical instrument makers, Liverpool

Curry & Paxton – Optical instrument makers

Grundy’s – cigarette manufacturers

John Player & Sons – ditto (clearly Dr Abram liked to smoke!).

Henry De Zeng – US instrument optical maker and patentee

Sir William Fergusson – stethoscope designer

Bazzi and Bianchi – Instrument designers based in Rome.

Park, Davis & Co – Drug manufacturers, London

Burroughs, Wellcome & Co – Drug manufacturers, London

Clay & Abraham Ltd – Chemists

Johnson & Johnson – New Brunswick, US branch

Ever Ready – Yes, there is a battery!

If you can help, please contact us via

The bag will also feature in August’s edition of Family Tree, the UK’s leading magazine for family historians, in which we have been helping to develop a number of monthly features on trades and professions.

One comment on “Help Us Unpack The Stories From This Doctor's Bag

  1. I note that the doctor’s bag contains a number of stethoscopes, including a wood monaural stethoscope that appears to be the so called “Fergusson” model commonly used in practice in the late 19th century and shown in various English instrument makers catalogues of the day.

    You state in the description of people associated with the bag contents: Sir William Fergusson- stethoscope designer. I have not been able to find a specific reference to Dr. Fergusson designing a stethoscope, although he was well known for designing surgical instruments.

    There is another Dr. John Ferguson (with one “g” not two) who was less well known around that time and was an expert on the use of the stethoscope for fetal auscultation. But again, I cannot find any reference to this Dr. Ferguson designing a stethoscope.

    Do you have a reference for SIr William Fergguson designing a stethoscope?

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