Crawford Williamson Long was a physician-surgeon-scientist who is credited with the first use of ether as an anesthetic during surgery.
Long was born on November 1, 1815 in Danielsville, Georgia. He attended Franklin College (a predecessor of the University of Georgia), graduating in 1835 with an AM degree (i.e., Masters of Arts degree). Before starting his formal medical training, Long spent a year as somewhat of an “apprentice” under a local physician informally receiving medical training. He read/studied the physician’s medical books and assisted him with patients, as appropriate.
Long began his medical studies at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky in 1836. In 1838, he transferred to the Medical School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; he earned his medical degree in 1839. Following his graduation, Long spent a year and a half working in New York hospitals before returning to Georgia and setting up his practice in Jefferson in 1841; in today’s parlance, his time in New York would be considered his residency.
Less than a year later, on March 30, 1842, he performed surgery on James Venable to remove a tumor on his neck. He administered ether to him via a towel which Venable continued to breathe from throughout the procedure. Venable did not experience pain during the procedure and even doubted that Long had removed the tumor until it was shown to him. It was the first documented case of using ether as an anesthetic during surgery.
Long continued to practice medicine and perform surgery until his death on June 16, 1878. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage after just completing the delivery of a baby.
Dr. Long’s milestone accomplishments were recognized by the Georgia legislature in 1926 when they selected him as one of two Georgia natives to be honored with a statue in the National Statuary Hall inside the US Capitol. The statue was paid for via subscription organized by the Crawford W. Long Memorial Association.
A few years later, on April 7, 1930, Representative Thomas Montgomery Bell (D-GA) introduced a bill in the House calling for a gold $1.50 coin to commemorate Dr. Long’s discovery and the service it rendered to physicians and patients around the world. The coin was sponsored by the Crawford W. Long Memorial Association (Incorporated) of Long’s home state of Georgia. There does not appear to have been a companion bill introduced in the Senate.
The coinage bill was unusual on several levels.
First, it proposed a commemorative coin for an event that was roughly 12 years in the future! Advance planning is always a good thing, but 12 years early for a commemorative coin seems a bit much.
Next, the denomination sought was definitely an oddity – $1.50! It would have been the first coin of such a denomination issued by the US. Maybe Representative Bell recalled the proposal made to commemorate the 150th anniversary of US Independence in 1926 with a $1.50 gold coin and thought he might have better luck convincing the Treasury that the denomination made sense! (Doubtful!) The bill's specification could also have simply been a mistake.
The bill specified that the coins would be struck using the standard troy weight, composition and diameter for such pieces. I wonder if Representative Bell was aware that the US did not have official standards for a $1.50 gold coin.
Had the coin been approved, it likely would have had a total weight of 2.508 grams and a net gold weight of 0.07255 ounces (extrapolated from the specifications for the US gold dollar).
The bill was very “loose” in terms of the minting parameters for the coin. It did not specify the year the coins were to be struck or how many could be struck. It also did not place a limit on how many times the Memorial Association could order the coins from the Mint or the minimum size of any order placed. In effect, as long as the Memorial Association had the money to pay for the coins it ordered, the Mint would be obliged to produce them! Had the bill passed, it would have been possible for the Association to order coins every year up to 1939 – the year Congress put a stop to existing multi-year commemorative programs.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures where it failed to be reported out. My assumption is that if the bill had made it our of the Committee, it would have been subject to considerable language changes to bring it more in line with other commemorative coin legislation of the time. It’s also very likely that the $1.50 denomination would have been changed to either $1.00 or $2.50.
As the proposed coin was never struck, I can’t present any images of one; I have not encountered any circa 1942 medals for Dr. Long either. The US Post Office, however, issued a stamp honoring Crawford as part of its Famous Americans series. The two-cent stamp was issued April 8, 1940 – just about two years shy of the centennial of the first use of ether as an anesthetic – with first day of issue ceremonies held in Jefferson, Georgia (the site of Crawford’s first use of ether).
There is a museum in Jefferson, Georgia dedicated to Dr. Crawford W. Long. You can learn more about it here: Long Museum