The Nose MachineNOSE MACHINE.—This is a simple successful contrivance which, applied to the nose for an hour daily, so directs the soft cartilage of which the member consists, that an ill-formed nose is quickly shaped to perfection. Any one can use them, and without pain. Price 10s. 6d., sent carriage free.—ALEX. ROSS, 248 High Holborn, London. Pamphlet sent for two stamps.

Source: The Examiner (London) 10 Feb 1872

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This intriguing contraption arrived on the scene in late 1871. Alexander Ross was a perfumer who branched out into a wide range of beauty products, including depilatories, hair curling fluid, complexion pills and skin tightening lotion, but was perhaps best known for his Spanish Fly hair restorer. On the launch of the nose machine, I suspect he sent out a pamphlet to the press. The novelty certainly attracted plenty of tongue-in-cheek comment.

The Birmingham Daily Post joked that the machine could provide political conspirators with the means of becoming masters of disguise. Once the device was well-known, they predicted,

…we shall expect to have fashions in noses as well as in hair. Where will it stop? Who knows?

The Pall Mall Gazette also wondered where the quest for perfection would end. With noses sorted out, would fashion next turn its attention to the eyes?

The substitution of coloured glass (of the hue best suited to the complexion of the wearer) for these organs is probably merely a question of time, and awaits only the solution of a few optical difficulties involved in the change. When this final conquest has been achieved, we shall at last be able to walk abroad with the proud consciousness that we owe our personal attractions not to the blind bounty of nature but to our own good taste and decorative skill.

News of the invention immediately reached the US too, with one Pennsylvania paper commenting:

Now let this genius invent a “nose machine” that will prevent persons from sticking their noses into other people’s business, and his fortune is guaranteed.

All good fun, but Punch ran a rather more sinister joke suggesting that Jewish people converting to Christianity could have their noses converted too.

Ross was a prolific advertiser, but the adverts themselves remained brief and low-key, without any typographical virtuosity, and often the nose machine was only mentioned as part of a list of his other products. It doesn’t appear to have gained much credence, remaining a last resort for the nasally challenged and an entertaining curiosity to others. In the mid-1890s, the Hampshire Chronicle remarked on it as if it had just been invented, giving a description as follows:

It is nothing but a little wooden clamp, consisting of two thin boomerang-shaped bits of boxwood, measuring about 3in, by ½in. and held together by two fly-headed screws. The nose is put in the clamp, tilted or hooked to the requisite form, and then the screws are tightened… …The whole apparatus could easily be turned out wholesale for threepence or less.

By this time Ross Jnr. had also come up with a similar contrivance for changing the shape of the chin, and one for correcting sticking-out ears. In the early 20th century the idea took off to a greater extent, with new versions being produced, such as this one from US inventor Ignatius Nathaniel Soares (please note this is a 1905 invention, and not what Alexander Ross’s machine would have looked like):

1905 Nose Shaper

A lot of the remedies I feature on The Quack Doctor are mildly amusing. I know some people link to them as examples of what our credulous old-timey forefathers would believe in. But this one, like the majority of stuff on the site, has a modern equivalent (thanks to Gizmodo for the link), not to mention the widespread availability of rhinoplasty. People’s desire to improve their appearance is timeless.

7 COMMENTS

  1. […] with its own domain name and shiny new site.  The entry that particularly caught my eye was the Nose Machine, a “simple successful contrivance which, applied to the nose for an hour daily, so directs […]

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