The invention of rubber surgical gloves is celebrating its 135th anniversary in 2024! Believe it or not, this little tool seen in every doctor, dentist’s office, and hospital was invented out of the love of a man for his wife. In 1889, Dr. William Halsted was in love with his scrub nurse and eventual wife, Carolyn Hampton. Indeed, this invention should be named “Rubber Gloves of Love.”
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Hospital procedures require surgical personnel to wash and disinfect their hands before interacting with patients. Caroline developed severe dermatitis due to the use of mercuric chloride for sterilization. She was on the verge of quitting her job. Dr. Halsted wanted to keep his love near him, so he contacted the Goodyear Rubber Company. He asked the engineers at Goodyear to fashion thin rubber gloves for Carolyn.
Original rubber gloves were very different from what we have today, but they proved to be an excellent addition to the operating room. The gloves were so well received that many other personnel began wearing the gloves. Now, they are everywhere. Dr. Halsted eventually married Carolyn, making her Mrs. Carolyn Halsted. Rubber gloves predate the creation of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company by nine years!
Rubber gloves have many current uses, far exceeding their original purpose. Your vehicle mechanic uses them to protect their hands from the petroleum products they use daily. Police use them to collect evidence at crime scenes. Hairdressers use them to protect their hands from dyes and solutions used in their business. Landscapers use them to weed flower beds. I use them in my kitchen to make meatloaf, bread, and other “sticky, icky” things.
One of the handiest products ever invented resulted from one man’s love for one woman. I shall never see another rubber glove anywhere and not think about this story and the invention of the “rubber gloves of love.”
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