Iron Lung Delivered to Marshfield Museum

A rare piece of Marshfield medical history is now preserved.

Marshfield Museum is the new home of a 7 foot long, 800 pound iron lung, hauled down 18 steps of stairs Friday morning to its permanent place in the basement of the 2nd Street Community Center.

Used to treat patients with respiratory difficulties, particularly polio, the iron lung had its place in local history at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The Marshfield Museum plans to detail the history of the disease and its treatment.

“We’ll have a whole history about polio and the iron lungs, because people don’t know what polio was, and they don’t know what an iron lung was!” said Shirley Mook.

The iron lung’s arrival was detailed in a newspaper report dated July 29,1949, which stated the equipment was rushed from Boston via the Wood County chapter of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to the polio isolation ward at the hospital.

When the hospital had no more use for iron lungs, the one now in possession of the museum was stored at the old Marshfield Brewery property which the hospital owned. The building would be demolished in 1981. The iron lung was discovered when the abandoned building was being cleared. Margaret Peterson, a hospital employee, was contacted. Peterson then connected with the North Wood County Historical Society to secure a new home for it.

The iron lung was stored in the garage at Upham Mansion, where it remained until January 9, when Nikolai Construction picked it up and prepped it for carrying it down the stairs.

The Marshfield Museum plans to restore the piece before making it available for viewing. Meanwhile, the rest of the museum can be seen for free on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1:30-4 p.m.