Dr. Elisha Cornelius Etchison (1848-1916), who practiced in Gaithersburg, made himself this traveling medical case in the late 19th century.  It is lined with lambswool, designed to keep his medicines from freezing when he was out making housecalls in the winter.

Dr. Etchison was born in Claggetsville (one of those Montgomery County towns that most people haven’t heard of nowadays).  He taught in the public schools for a few years before attending the University of Maryland medical school; after graduating in 1874 he moved to Gaithersburg, where he was one of the first (possibly the first, although I have not confirmed that) doctors to live and practice in that city.  In addition to his medical career, he was also elected to three terms as the Mayor.  One of his sons, Dr. Neal Etchison, also practiced in Gaithersburg, and another son, Garnett Waters Etchison, was a long-time pharmacist in that city. 

The nice little painted box (I love people who paint or engrave their names on their things!) was donated by Dr. Etchison’s granddaughter, who added some details about her grandfather’s winter work.  “Inasmuch as there was no snow removal in the early days of Gaithersburg, Dr. Etchison drove a horse and sleigh at least six weeks in the winter.  [As he drove,] over his legs was a heavy bear rug and underneath was a hot soapstone to keep the medicines in the box warm and himself warm.”   I have a feeling a lot of people in the DC area are wishing they had a horse and sleigh right about now.

…An early post this week, partly to make up for last week’s delay and partly to cover my bases in case our power goes out tonight in Snowpocalypse 3: This Time It’s Personal.   (For more info on some historic storms in the DC area – including a great anecdote about the 1899 storm, when Montgomery County refused to do any snow removal because it had drifted into the county from Frederick (!) – check out our website.) I hope Dr. Etchison’s insulated box helps you think warm thoughts as we all weather the storm!

Toasty warm lambswool!

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