The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Prosthetic Arm with Springs

About This Item


Prosthetic Arm with Springs


Amputation, Traumatic


Prosthetic or artificial limbs have a long history, but they did not become common in the United States until the 1860s. During the Civil War, about 60,000 men had to have all or part of their arms or legs amputated because of battlefield injuries or later infections. For decades afterwards, it was common to see men with missing arms or artificial legs.

This prosthetic from the 1930s was meant to replace an arm lost in a farming accident. Amputation is a last resort for a damaged limb, but farm machinery may crush arms and legs, making them difficult to repair, and wounds can be dirty and become infected.

It’s unclear how helpful this prosthetic would have been for a farmer. It bends at the elbow and swivels at the wrist, but the rubber-tipped spring fingers seem to be just for show; they can’t really grip anything. By contrast, today’s most advanced robotic prosthetics can be linked to the nervous system and controlled by the brain.

Farming continues to be a highly hazardous occupation in the United States, with a mortality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. Every day, about 167 agricultural workers have an injury that makes them lose work time; five percent of those injuries cause permanent impairment.


Digitized by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia








20th Century

Original Format

Steel, plastic, leather, rubber, textile


“Prosthetic Arm with Springs,” The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library, accessed May 16, 2021,