Another ‘It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time’ item from our Collections is this Sun Lamp. Our example was made around 1937 by the Health Ray Company of Southampton. The lamp was operated by running an electric current down two carbon rods. When moved apart using the knob on the rear this caused a spark as the electricity jumped the gap. This produced both infra red and ultra violet rays. It also produced a distinctive smell and considerable smoke as the carbon rods burnt down.
The Health Ray Company appear to have done most of their trade by mail order as can be seen by this advertisement. Five shillings seems to have been the initial admission price to ‘The House of Sun’, with the total price varying from 57 to 60 shillings. They also seem to have done considerable trade with hospitals as many children recall receiving treatment with them and the resulting tanned skin. We now know that prolonged exposure to strong UV rays is not good for the skin.
Attempts to track down the history of the Health Ray Co have proved unsuccessful. Even the usually reliable Graces Guide were only able to offer advertisements such as that shown on the right. The Museum of Technology and Science Museum have similar machines made in the 1950’s and 1960’s respectively, but as to when the company ceased production and its ultimate fate we have no definite information.