First-aid kit, c 1895

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek

Blood-letting bandages, laryngeal syringes, rectal coolers, tongue forceps: by the turn of the 20th century Waldek, Wagner & Benda, purveyors to the imperial & royal court, were supplying virtually everything doctors and hospitals could need.

In a catalogue of almost 500 pages from that period the company’s associates marketed special first-aid boxes in small and large sizes for mines and iron works, industrial plants and construction firms, the railways and the fire service, theatres and entertainment venues, swimming baths, and the Wiener freiwillige Rettungs-Gesellschaft’, Vienna’s own voluntary rescue and emergency service.

This particular kit was donated by the company to Vienna’s Industrial Hygiene Museum in 1895 and from there to the Technisches Museum. It is listed in a catalogue of that occupational safety establishment, along with first-aid kits for the Ringhoffer machinery and carriage factory in Prague and the Saxon company of Karl Wendschuch in Dresden.

According to the label, the kit comprises, among others, bandages made of cotton, linen and gutta-percha as well as splints made of lime wood; a ‘pharyngeal tamper’ to dislodge foreign bodies down into the stomach; other utensils such as bandage scissors, wound syringes, a pus basin, a finger guard and friction brush; an iron chloride solution for staunching blood; iodoform, oil of turpentine and acetic acid for disinfection; ammonia water, spirit of ether and cognac for faintness, fainting fits and for reviving the senses; cherry laurel water (aqua laurocerasi) for the gastro-intestinal tract, and also almond oil for skin care. These aids and ingredients ensured at least some sort of first-responder medical care in the event of minor work-related accidents.

One of the company’s co-founders, Gustav von Benda (1847-1932), acquired a large and significant art collection and made a name for himself as a patron of the arts. One particularly valuable piece was the so-called ‘Benda-Madonna’, a late Gothic painting. Benda bequeathed his collection to Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Manufacturer: Waldek Wagner & Benda, Vienna

Date of origin: c 1895

Inv.Nr. 31285/1

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