Continuing our tour of the Museum’s collections we find this entertaining piece of Victorian medical technology. A, hopefully, mild electric shock may be administered by use of the metal terminals and the winding of the handle. Unfortunately the rubber drive band on ours has perished, so we are currently unable to test the veracity of the maker’s claims, even on a willing victim.
These machines gained popularity during the 19th Century as a means of treating various medical complaints including Toothache, Tic-Doloreux (Trigeminal Neuralgia) and Neuralgia. They originated in the United States with examples being made from the 1850’s onwards by Daniel Davis, ‘W.C. & J. Neff’ and by ‘Davis & Kidder’. This particular machine was made during the late 1800s and purchased by the Rutland County Museum in 1982 for the princely sum of £25.
Extensive instructions for usage are under the lid. “Connect two metallic cords and wires with the sockets in the end of the box, and apply the handles connected with the other ends of the metallic cord or wires to any part of the person through which it is desirable to pass the current of electricity. Then turn the Crank regulating the strength of the current by the speed, and by the Knob at the end of the Box; it being desirable to increase the strength only to that degree most agreeable to the patient (!)” – “It is less unpleasant to the patient if wet sponges are placed in the ends of the Handles, and these applied to the skin, as they prevent the prickling sensation“
These boxes, although fascinating, are not particularly unusual, with examples being held by various museums. The Saffron Walden Museum has an interesting blog about their machine and some of the other electro therapy devices available at the time.