Antique Ostomy Appliances: A Journey into the Past


Let's back up a bit. Let's start with these photos that I found on the internet. Remember that these items in the archives were 'modern' at one point in history. Now, they're merely antiques, but a lot of time, money, research, and development went into them. They were the best you could get back then. The first pouch similar to today's plastic bags only appeared after World War II had ended. And there was no guarantee that these 'new' plastic pouches would be odor-proof. Because these plastic bags looked so flimsy, it took a while before ostomates considered them as alternatives to rubber pouching systems. Plastic would soon be here to stay and become an absolute necessity for ostomates.

Here are a few of those long-forgotten ostomy appliances. Most of these antiques were expensive, bulky, heavy, and complicated to use. Some were well-designed with the ostomate's well-being in mind. However, all the appliances in these photos needed a belt to stay in place as Karaya was still in the laboratory!

Let's start with the Rubber Family.

We're going back in time to the '30s. Davol was the big name in ostomy appliances, and gum rubber was king.

The first item is a round pouch. How it attached to the flange and what the flange looked like remains a mystery. It was produced by Davol and was not drainable.

Another Davol product was perhaps the first one-piece drainable pouch that was in common use. Emptying and cleaning the pouch would probably have been a fussy procedure, as the flange portion, which was incorporated into the one-piece design, had nooks and crannies that were difficult to clean.

Now, here's a deluxe colostomy pouch with comfort as its goal. This was a one-piece non-drainable system, a Rolls-Royce if you will, complete with its own spare tire! As you can see from the photo, it has an inflatable 'doughnut' that you can adjust to your comfort level. The only snag was that if the doughnut deflated, you had to find a gas station or bicycle pump to fix the flat! (Maybe it came with its own mini pump.) Believe it or not, this and other Davol appliances were used even into the 1960s.

This artifact is probably one of the more 'modern' pouching systems of the time. A colostomy pouch—consisting of four parts: a nylon 'frame', a clear plastic bag fastened to the frame by a 'gum rubber' ring, and a fabric belt that kept the whole thing from falling off the patient's abdomen—was in use from the 1950s to the 1960s. The size of the opening is so large that my fist fits through it! One can only imagine the itching and burning of the skin around the stoma.

This next device, also from the '50s and '60s, is the 'ABC' colostomy appliance made by the Canadian company, J.F. Hartz. It was a six-piece model! The two photos show the separate pieces. First, there's, of course, the belt and bag. The main piece is a very large, very rigid oval nylon flange measuring 5 3/4 x 4 1/4 inches with a two-inch diameter opening in the middle. Then we have a spring wire belt harness twisted to create four loops for attaching a belt. A clear plastic ring with a short spring is used to keep the bag tightly in place (two small screws secure the short spring). Then, there's another smaller clear ring (also held in place by two small screws) positioned between the flange and the outer ring.

Irrigation System called "The Bowman Improved Colostomy Apparatus."

The simple concept was to fill the stainless steel jug with warm water and hang the jug two feet above the toilet. After sitting on the toilet, attach the irrigation cup over your stoma using the provided belt (a rubber catheter allowed the water to enter the stoma), and irrigate until you start to feel cramps. Allow the bowel to empty back into the cup and down the toilet via a large-diameter rubber hose attached below the cup.

Appliance manufacturers have always been hard at work developing high-quality appliances for the benefit of ostomates. Although the challenges of the past haven't entirely disappeared, we now live in a 'plastic society' that evolves constantly. We also live in an age of Spandex, high fashion, and form-fitting clothes, and we strive for freedom and optimal physical health. Hence, ostomy appliances today need to be lightweight, discreet, and customizable, unlike those from the past. I guess I can thank my lucky stars for people like my grandmother who had to endure these products so that today I could have something safe and comfortable!

Past Member

This was really well done, and quite interesting... thanks!

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Hey Track, thanks so much for your research. We do not realize how long ostomies have been around.


That was really interesting... I'm so thankful that I wasn't around 60 years ago.


This is so interesting to read. I am so pleased that the products have come such a long way. Well done on your research. Mrs. O xx

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Thanks for this piece of history - much appreciatedBill

Thanks, and I agree with Lemon ...


It made me wonder how future generations of ostomates will look at our contraptions today. I am sure the best is yet to come.


Traci, many thanks for sharing your wonderful history. Even though we sometimes curse what we have, this little history lesson will cause us to think about how well we have it now. Of course, there are some exceptions and we feel for them too. - Ed

Past Member

Wow... gives new meaning to "We've come a long way, baby!" huh? Thanks for sharing this eye-opener, BEG


Traci - Thank you so much for checking this out and passing it on to us. As always, Primeboy, you once again manage to come up with something to think about, stated very clearly. There are so many things to be thankful for, not the least of which is the fact that we're all still kicking, despite our various diseases and unpleasant results. Your information has made me think about my grandfather, who's been gone almost 30 years. He had a colostomy, which he eventually had reversed. No one seems to know why he had it done and after reading this blog, I want to learn more about it, beginning with when he had it, which I can most likely find out. He had a grocery store at one point and I believe he was working in the deli dept of a Brooklyn supermarket when he had his surgery. This was a physically demanding job, requiring a lot of bending, reaching and in general, lots of moving around. My guess is he didn't have the luxury of going on disability and having had the opportunity of knowing him, would bet that if given the option, he would have declined disability and gone back to work. I was waiting on tables when I became a member of this club which I never wanted to join. I wasn't comfortable going back to work, as I have: a hernia that doesn't hesitate to scream at me when it gets bumped; an inability to just pop up after crouching down - I have to hold on to something above me and pull myself up; a realistic fear of springing a leak in the middle of dinner, which would give new meaning to the expression being up shit's creek (can I say that on this site?); and an inability to empty out for about 4 hours a day, as once dinner starts, there's no chance to breathe for that length of time. I look at my grampa with new eyes after reading this and while I always knew he had it tougher just because it was so long ago, really had no idea before now, just how hard it must have been for him. I look at myself and am reminded what a spoiled little self-pitying brat I've become. If anything will help to get me out of my boat, the SS Pity Pot, it's thinking of myself this way. Thank you, Traci, for this new perspective.


Thanks for that. My surgeon actually told me at the time of my operation, that we had even come a long way in the last 10 years. Thank goodness for the wonderful people and companies that keep improving these products.

Past Member

Very interesting, thanks Traci. Recently, I was looking on Salt's site and saw a 'new' flange very similar to the 'abc' flange above. Hopefully, it is made of a more pliant material. Let's hope that the adage about clothes - "wait long enough and it will come back into fashion" - or today's mania for retro doesn't apply to stoma appliances! TC

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Interesting - Thanks for sharing

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