Old slides and unusual stains

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neal Shields
Posts: 15
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2022 8:02 pm

Old slides and unusual stains

#1 Post by neal Shields » Tue Jul 05, 2022 7:46 pm

Old slides; “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” –Forrest Gump.

Dirty water can’t be beat, however old prepared microscope slide run a close second. Especially if you like learning about the human body.

I have about 4 sets of slides:

1) Expensive that I bought FBR (Full boat retail) over an extended period of time from: Wards scientific, Carolina Biological Supply and Liedner. (about 75 total). I paid from $7 to $15 for each slide.
2) About 500 slides that I purchased from the estate of a University biology professor. I paid about $30 bucks for all 500. They could be broken down into 4 categories:
a. The slides that supported his dissertation work from the early ‘30s (~300) I actually found the dissertation on line and matched slides to the illustrations in the dissertation. (His dissertation involved cutting the leg off of a live Newt and then waiting for it to grow back and cutting it off again and noting the differences.)
b. Histology slides that his students prepared, that he thought were worth saving, late ‘30s to late ‘40s. (~200)
c. His collection of very old slides from the late 1800s.
d. A set of slides from a USAF hospital that I think were used for teaching blood born pathogens.
3) A set of 100 histology slides from a local medial university on Ebay for $50 plus shipping. They were listed to suggest that they were all made by the university but it turns out that they broke down as follows: 26 made by the University, 43 by Turtox, 12 by Wards, and 14 by Ann Arbor. Two had the mounting medium cracked so badly that they were unusable, but pretty. Two more had the mounting media cracked but the center was fine so even a 10X there was a full field view. (Note the ones made by the university were as good or better than the commercial ones.) This seems to be a standardized set for medical students and new sets run about $700.
4) “Student” slides from thrift stores (~40). They tend to run to cut stem sections, feathers, rat hair, pollen… Most are pretty at low powers but are not of high enough quality to bother with at100X.

So, what have I learned by purchasing old slides.

1) They hold up extremely well. I have a diatom slide from the late 1800s that is way better than those I have purchased in the last 10 years from commercial slide supply houses. (I have a Lieder diatom test slide that is close to that good, but that is an exception, not the rule. Ag 1411) Some look yellowed but that doesn’t seem to affect the detail or the color when viewing under a microscope.)
2) They (where appropriate) have really interesting stains that I can’t even find available from the modern sources. (See attached photographs)
3) Even the standard H&E stains seem to be more vibrant than I see on most of my modern slides.
4) They seem to have thinner sections than modern slides some of my old slides are down to 7 microns. Also, I see less specimen tearing on the old slides than on the new ones. I have several slides that show the inner ear and on the new slides most of the fine detail has been ripped away by what I assume was a dull knife or the feed speed was too high.
5) The mounting medium is thinner on the old slides. I have some modern slides that I can’t get to focus at 100X because there is so much mounting medium between the objective and the specimen that I run out of working distance (I have a 100x with a WD of .17 and my best objective only has a WD of .1 but some of these slides won’t even work with the .17 objective).
6) Many of the old slides have multiple sections per slide. I have sets that start at the top of the frog and go all the way to the bottom (20 slides with 20 sections per slide). Even some of the commercial slides have multiple specimens per slide. I.E. A muscle slide that has: voluntary, involuntary and heart on one slide. Or a bone slide that has a cross section and a longitudinal section. I see this once in a while but it is unusual for modern slides.
7) Get your Brillo pad out because some of the dried 75 year old immersion oil can be a chore to get off.
8) The old “Turtox” slides pre Ward’s seem to be consistently good.

On the whole I find that old histological slides can be particularly enjoyable if utilized with Youtube videos designed for medical students. Initially they all look alike but if you study the slide and then go watch a video it becomes like the Find Waldo game. Once you know what you are looking at and looking for, it can be great fun.

The other trick to enjoying old histological slides if you’re so equipped is don’t assume that they are boring or that there is nothing to see until you have run the gambit of lighting techniques. A slide where there is “nothing to see here” under brightfield can pop with detail under dark field, Phase or DIC.

In collecting old slides I found that I have inadvertently made a collection of old stains. Now-a-days almost everything is H&E. Not always so.

Here are some examples:
This is a spinal column stained with silver. I learned that the silver stain is preferred for nerves because it only stains some and not others. No one knows why but if you stained every neuron, you would just get a dark blob because they are so closely packed.
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... e84f_c.jpg

These are blood vessels Elastica van Gieson stained:
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... bb5c_z.jpg

This is Muscles (Masson’s Trichrome?)
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... 8ec6_z.jpg

Tongue Silver
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... cd18_z.jpg

Aorta (Verhoeff's elastic stain
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... 5843_c.jpg

Blood Vessels EVG stain. (Elastica van Gieson)
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... bb5c_z.jpg

Liver (Newt) Fe-H-Orange G
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... b261_c.jpg

Liver (Newt) Alum-Carmine
https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/521 ... dc81_z.jpg

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Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:29 am
Location: Georgia, USA

Re: Old slides and unusual stains

#2 Post by BramHuntingNematodes » Tue Jul 05, 2022 11:03 pm

Yeah those old timers used the most toxic and vibrant stuff that existed looking at Grays big book he's tossing mercury and chromate and picric acid every which way no "hey careful with this it will kill you"s in sight.

Turtox from general biological are good slides for sure.
1942 Bausch and Lomb Series T Dynoptic, Custom Illumination

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