The Diagraphoscope – a wonder-working machine

Twentieth-century businessman X. W. Witman saw a lot of potential in X-rays. Doctors might get excited about their emerging medical application, but for him X-rays offered something even better – the chance to get rich quick. If you could X-ray Witman’s head, the plate would display a fine collection of …

Continue reading

Bomb the first sneeze with Kilacold

  If you think a chlorine bomb sounds more like something from the battlefield than the medicine cabinet, then you’d be right about the origins of this 1920s remedy. The product, and a brief trend among physicians for treating colds with chlorine, arose from experiments made by the US Chemical …

Continue reading

Dr W. S. Rice’s Rupture Method

I had this post all specially planned for 21 May 2011 and now you tell me today has nothing to do with ruptures? Honestly, I don’t know why I bother. Well, I might as well post it anyway – I get the feeling not many Quack Doctor readers will be …

Continue reading

The Electropathic and Zander Institute

Regular readers might remember Cornelius Bennett Harness, who carried on a lucrative business in electro-magnetic products in London in the 1880s and 1890s. I have blogged about his Electric Corsets and the Ammoniaphone, an inhaler promising artificial Italian air to singers and public speakers. Harness’s showrooms, known as the Electropathic …

Continue reading

You Needn’t be Bald

Source: Popular Mechanics December 1909 When a bald fellow had got fed up with rubbing lotions on his scalp or taking bullocks’ blood supplements, it was time to go for something more drastic – a vacuum cap. An early form of this device was invented in New York in 1898 by Claude …

Continue reading

The Invisible Elevators for Short People

From The Standard (London) 10 April 1897 . Perhaps this is not strictly medical, but I noticed this ad while researching something else, and was intrigued enough to find out more. The invisible elevators, I discovered, were cork wedges about 1 inch thick, designed to be worn inside your shoes. …

Continue reading

Dr Walter’s Medicated Rubber Garments

My Scottish grandma could be rather forthright at times and was wont to sum up the appearance of passers-by with the succinct phrase ‘She’s no stranger to a fish supper.’ Had grandma been around in the early 20th century, however, perhaps she wouldn’t have had as much opportunity to make …

Continue reading

The Lambert Snyder Health Vibrator

Unlike the La Vida Electric Vibrator, this one was hand-operated. Snyder explained its action in his patent application as follows: In a general sense my present invention comprises a main staff and a vibrator-head, the latter mounted for movement longitudinally on the staff in such manner that said movement will give …

Continue reading

The ‘Instra’ Warmer

Source: The Sporting Times, 28 January 1899. Although this product isn’t solely medical, its advertising did claim that it could prevent chills, colds, rheumatism and lumbago, and alleviate toothache, neuralgia and sciatica. Whether or not it could effectively combat these ailments is doubtful, but it nevertheless sounds like a useful …

Continue reading

Vigor’s Horse-Action Saddle

Source: Country Life Illustrated, 8 Jan 1897 (this image from a later facsimile edition) Unusually for anything involving exercise, this contraption looks almost fun. Although perhaps not completely  ‘a perfect substitute for a live horse’ – at least, not if you wanted to travel somewhere – it was well-received as an …

Continue reading