With the health fair in full swing, we thought this would be the perfect time for a lighthearted post about one of the stranger artifacts in our collections. This is Davis and Kidder’s Patent Magneto-Electric Machine, a hugely popular (but largely ineffective) medical device, popular in the late-nineteenth century.
Originally patented by Davis and Kidder in 1854, this particular Patent Magneto-Electric Machine may be dated to the late nineteenth century. Ours is a later model, as the magnet is painted black and the rollers are covered with yellow felt (in early models, both were red). This device was one of many products to appear between 1850 and 1930, promising to cure a multitude of afflictions and diseases through the power of electricity (electropathy).
Basically this machine produces a mild alternating current via two solenoids spinning against the poles of a magnet. The strength of the current depends on how fast the operator would crank the machine, and through the handles, the patient would supposedly feel a slight tingling sensation. These nineteenth century electrical devices have since been discredited and are often categorized with phrenology and patent medicines.