Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Crawford W. Long Collection


Collection ID:
Taylor, Frances Long, Mrs.
Long, Crawford Williamson, Dr., 1815-1878
Physical Description:
0.5 Cubic feet
3 boxes
The collection documents Crawford W. Long's use of sulphuric ether on a patient. The materials include glass plate negatives, correspondence, printed documents, and photprints.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The collection includes five publications: a biographical sketch; personal recollections of a contemporary pharmacist, together with correspondence and documentation of Long's priority in the use of ether; a paper read before the Johns Hopkins Historical Society; the proceedings in Statuary Hall when Crawford Long's statue was unveiled; and a memorial to Dr. Long published by the University of Pennsylvania.
Also included are an original letter (dated December 3, 1911) from Dudley W. Buxton to Mrs. Taylor, Dr. Long's daughter, regarding a paper he had read before the Royal Academy of Medicine, and glass plate photonegatives and one film negative, with corresponding photographic prints, of a number of letters attesting to Dr. Long's use of sulphuric ether as an anaesthetic on approximate or specific dates.


The collection is arranged into one series.

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Crawford Williamson Long was born November 1, 1815, in Danielsville, Georgia, the son of James and Elizabeth Ware. He was a studious boy who entered Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) at fourteen and graduated in 1835, second in his class. After teaching one year he began to read medicine, first under a preceptor, later at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and finally at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a degree in 1839.
Following eighteen months in New York, where he gained a reputation as a skillful surgeon, he began to practice in Jefferson, a village in Jackson County, Georgia. In August 1842, Dr. Long married Caroline Swain, the niece of Governor David Lowry Swain of North Carolina.
During the early 1840's laughing gas was the subject of much discussion and a number of demonstrations of its effects on volunteers. In January, 1842 several of Long's friends induced him to let them have a nitrous oxide frolic. No nitrous oxide was available but Long offered sulphuric ether as a substitute, explaining to his friends that it was equally exhilirating and as safe as nitrous oxide. After observing that the young men who had inhaled the sulphuric ether did not experience pain, Dr. Long decided to test its ability to produce insensitivity in his practice.
On March 30, 1842, Dr. Long administered sulphuric ether to James Venable and removed a small tumor from his neck. This was the first recorded surgical procedure using inhalation anaesthesia. On June 6 he removed another tumor from Venable's neck and on July 3 amputated a boy's toe. By September Long had performed eight operations using ether as the anaesthetic. This experience with ether was not published until December, 1849 as a result of the controversy over W. T. G. Morton's claim to priority in its discovery. At that time Dr. Long described his first five operations using ether in a paper in the Southern Medical and Surgical Journal under the title "An Account of the First Use of Sulphuric Ether by Inhalation as an Anaesthetic in Surgical Operations."
In 1850 Crawford Long moved to Athens, Georgia, where he immediately acquired a large surgical practice. He died there on June 16, 1878. In 1910 an obelisk was erected to his memory in Athens and in 1926 Georgia placed his statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.


Robert S. Harding, archivist and Grace Angle, volunteer
Processing Information
Processed by Robert S. Harding, archivist and Grace Angle, volunteer, 1984.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collections was donated by Mrs. Frances Long Taylor in 1921.
Custodial History
The collection was transferred from the Division of Medical Sciences (now the Division of Medicine and Science) on February 15, 1985. Four of the five pamphlets were given by Dr. Long's daughter, Mrs. Frances Long Taylor, in 1921 and the provenance of Senate Document No. 60 of the 69th Congress, 1st Session, a record of the proceedings in Statuary Hall on the presentation of a statue of Dr. Long, is not known.

Using the Collection

Preferred Citation
Crawford W. Long Collection, 1841-1926, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 19th-20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Physicians Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Black-and-white negatives -- Glass -- 1890-1920 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Medical sciences Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anesthesia Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Edward VII, King Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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