Pewter box for transporting leeches

Made:
1801-1900 in United Kingdom
maker:
Unknown
Pewter leech box, 19th century. Graduated black perspex background. Pewter leech box, 19th century. Specific types of leech were used in bloodletting and this special box would have been

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Pewter leech box, 19th century. Graduated black perspex background.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Pewter leech box, 19th century. Specific types of leech were used in bloodletting and this special box would have been
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum, London

Pewter leech box, 19th century

Specific types of leech were used in bloodletting and this special box would have been used to transport them to where they were needed. Leeches were such a popular treatment that by 1830 demand was outstripping the supply. They are a type of worm with suckers at both ends of the body, although only the frontal sucker, which has teeth, is used to feed. Once attached to a living body, they feed on its blood. Leeches normally live in freshwater and collecting them from river beds was traditionally a female occupation.

This box is made of pewter and has air holes in one end. The word “LEECHES” is engraved on the side. Few leech boxes have survived.

Details

Category:
Therapeutics
Object Number:
A42423
type:
leech box
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
credit:
Loan, Wellcome Trust