This device, invented by Dr Ball of Nassau Street, New York, was a small cup with a squeezy rubber balloon attached to it, as pictured left. The invention made its way to England in 1872, when Chichester minister Joseph Fletcher filed a British patent for it.
The patient had to put the cup over the eye and then pump the balloon to create a vacuum, exerting suction to change the shape of the eyeball. Presumably if you pumped really hard, there could be gruesomely spectacular results.
I was disappointed to learn that Dr Ball's initial was J, not I.
BY ROYAL LETTERS PATENT. THE EYES! THE EYES!! THE EYES!!!
SIGHT RESTORED AND SPECTACLES NO LONGER NEEDED. All diseases of the Eyes Cured by using Dr. BALL'S PATENT IVORY EYE CUPS By their use the shrunk and enfeebled eye in both young and old is at once furnished with the best and indispensable animal stimulant—Arterial Blood. Nature herself does the work aided by our Ivory Eye Cups. Over 25,000 persons have already been cured by Dr. Ball's safe and simple treatment. For particulars address stamped envelope to Mr. J. FLETCHER, Richmond-villa, Portfield, Chichester, Sussex.
Source: The Hull Packet and East Riding Times, Friday 13 October 1876