Thursday, February 19, 2015

Archelus H. Mitchell & His 1916 Anesthesia Machine

On July 21, 1916, Archelus H. Mitchell [1892-1986] of Selma submitted an application to the U.S. Patent Office for an "anesthetizing and resuscitation apparatus." At that time such applications typically included drawings, a detailed description and the inventor's claims to uniqueness. Witnesses to his application were listed as N. Wann and F.C. Meyer. You can see his application below.

In his description Mitchell noted the machine included two mixing chambers, wash bottles, control valves for air, oxygen, and whatever anesthetic gas would be used--primarily ether or nitrous oxide at that time in the U.S. The machine also included a mercury manometer to measure pressure. He made five specific claims of uniqueness for his machine related to the specific parts and operations of the device.

On August 14, 1917, Mitchell was granted patent number 1,236,591. Anesthesia machines first began to appear in the late 19th century and offered greater control over administration of gases, oxygen and air for general anesthesia. You can learn more about the history of anesthesia via the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology which is located near Chicago.

Whether Michell's machine was ever manufactured is currently unknown. In fact I have so far learned very little about Mitchell. The dates given above are taken from an entry in the Social Security Death Index; I assume it is the same person, since the dates and location fit. There his birthday is given as September 1, 1892 and his death as January 1986.

The listing for Mitchell's household in Selma in the 1930 U.S. Census shows four people in addition to Mitchell himself. His sister Addie lived with him, as well as three boarders, two female and one male. His occupation is listed as "proprietor" and his industry as "farm implement." Thus we can probably conclude he owned a store specializing in farm equipment.

In 1932 Mitchell filed one more patent application, for a "motor vehicle". He was granted patent number 1,924,787 for that truck. The patent has been cited by several others between 1948 and 2008. What he did in Selma for the rest of his long life is currently unknown.

Text and illustrations for patents can be found easily in two places: Google Patents and the European Patent Office The latter site offers access to more than 80 million worldwide patents since 1830, including U.S. patents, and printing as PDF files. The Google site is U.S. only. Happy hunting!

You can learn about more Alabama inventors at the Birmingham Public Library's "Alabama Inventors" digital collection. Those include Mary Anderson, who invented the windshield wiper, and Miller Reese Hutchinson, who held 1,000 patents.

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