There were, in fact, three different stills that appeared on different episodes of the show. But one of those stills – the one most familiar to longtime “M*A*S*H” viewers – went on to the Smithsonian Museum. And, after a two-year show, it became part of the Smithsonian’s collection, according to Bon Appetit.
The first three stills showed up in the first three episodes of the show that were produced. (CBS tended to air episodes in a different order than they were produced, a typical practice with sitcoms.)
In the first two episodes produced, Frank winds up confiscating or destroying the still, necessitating the creation of a new one for the following episodes.
The First Two ‘M*A*S*H’ Stills Looked Very Different
The original still, which showed up in the pilot episode in September of 1972, was a large metal barrel with a bent arm and a metal coil protruding from the top of it. The surgeons placed it on top of a small portable stove. Frank ultimately seizes the contraption and hurls it to the ground. It is never fixed, according to MASH4077TV.com.
The second still appeared in “Henry, Please Come Home.” By then, it was a big glass jug linked by metal coil to different glass beakers. Unfortunately, Frank assumes command temporarily, and he promptly marches in with a wingman and an MP, pulls a gun on the men and takes the still away by force. They never get it back.
The Third Still Landed in the Smithsonian
The “M*A*S*H” still which would appear throughout the rest of the show made its entrance in the episode “To Market, To Market.” It’s got a spherical glass beaker linked to other beakers by a copper-colored coil. Frank never does manage to destroy it. He does have Radar take it apart at one point, but Trapper swiftly fixes it. And the still survives a subsequent attack by an upset B.J. in the episode “Period of Adjustment.”
All told, the still is a vital component of “M*A*S*H” hijinks and a piece of television history. It’s no wonder the Smithsonian wanted it for their collection.