Featured Object

In each issue, the bimonthly DAR magazine, American Spirit, highlights an object from the DAR Museum collection in its "National Treasures" feature. These objects, often recent accessions or important pieces in the current exhibit, always have a story to tell about American history.

National Treasures

Let It Out

In 2004 the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of leeches for medical treatment, so jars like this one from the DAR Museum’s collection could start becoming more commonplace. For thousands of years, leeches were used for bloodletting, a common medical procedure dating back as far as ancient Egypt. It was thought that too much bile in the bloodstream caused sicknesses and thus illnesses could be cured or averted by letting blood, often in very large quantities. Even George Washington received this popular treatment, which was thought to cure a wide variety of illnesses and even headaches, obesity and mental illness. The use of leeches peaked in the early 19th century, particularly in Europe, causing the species to almost go extinct.

This jar, which would have been found in an apothecary shop, dates between 1820 and 1840 and was possibly manufactured by Leeds Pottery in Yorkshire, England.

The use of leeches in treating sick patients has made a comeback in recent years, but not for bloodletting. Today leeches are used to draw excess blood from reattached limbs. The benefit of leech therapy isn’t the amount of blood a leech can draw, though. Leeches can draw only about two teaspoons of blood before getting full. Instead, the powerful anti-clotting agent contained in leech saliva keeps blood flowing for hours.

American Spirit, Volume 140, No. 2, March/April 2006, Page 11
Photo by Mark Gulezian/QuickSilver

More National Treasures

Sitting Pretty

To the Rescue

Strange Brew

Tayloe Family Ties

Ornamental Trio

Reviving the Stone

A Record to Remember

Strong Set

Fashion Flashback

Let's Go Ride a Bike

Rock-a-Bye

Isn't It Romantic

A Rockin' Good Toy

The Mystery of Mother and Child

Keep Cool

Dress for the Ages

Historical Register

Banjo Time

Getting Warmer

Virginia Map Quest

Serve It Up

Greatest Toy on Earth

Dress for the Day

Boston Uncommon

A Teapot to Revere

Seats of Honor

Birthday Threads

Clockwork

Play On

Top Drawer

Burning Bright

Seated in Revolution

Something to Crow About

Sister Stitch

Tea Time

Capturing Cherubs

A Link to the Past

Brushes with Fame

Something Borrowed

Supper Is Served

Stately Seats

Heirloom High Chest

Making Beautiful Music

Forged From Fire

For Madame's Trousseau

Heavenly Harmonies

Priceless Pooch

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