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Tobacco resuscitator kit, England, 1774

The idea of reviving a victim of drowning by injecting tobacco smoke into the rectum or the lungs seems very strange to us. To physicians in the 1700s, this approach would seem entirely rational. Among the suggested treatments for drowning was warmth and the administration of stimulating vapours – such as tobacco. This resuscitation kit contains the equipment necessary to inject into the lungs, stomach or rectum. The bellows could be adapted to inflate the lungs with fresh air or tobacco, while the kit also includes a small ivory syringe with a flexible tube to inject stimulants into the stomach. Other nozzles could be attached; the long ivory tubes were for the rectum and the small circular discs were for the nostrils. There is also a space for tobacco on the left hand side to the box. This resuscitator kit was provided by the Royal Humane Society of London and would have been one of several placed at various points along the River Thames. The Royal Humane Society was founded in 1774 by two physicians, William Hawes (1736-1808) and Thomas Cogan (1736-1818). The society was originally called the 'Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Drowned’.

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Glossary: resuscitator

A device or instrument used for resuscitation after asphyxia or the cessation of breathing.

Glossary: resuscitation

The act of restoring life to someone near death. This is done by such measures as artificial respiration (kiss-of-life) and cardiac massage.