Have you ever wondered about the origin of some symbols? How about the infamous barber pole? Are you familiar with the role of the barber-surgeon? If you write historical fiction spanning the 13th through the 18th century, you may want to familiarize yourself with their function.


The practice of medicine was separated from the practice of surgery. Medical practice was generally carried out by those who went through a university program whereas surgery was considered more of a trade.

The characteristic red and white barber pole with the brass bowl symbolized the basin used to collect the blood during blood-letting and the red and white stripes represented the blood and dressings. This represented members of the Barber-Surgeon Guild until 1745.

To learn more about barber-surgeons, check out these references:





Would you have been comfortable going to a barber-surgeon?

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