Thursday, 6 February 2014

Electric Shock Therapy Machine

On Monday mornings the Curator, with the assistance of two volunteers, audit the Museum store, and take objects out and put them away again. It's fairly arduous, but it keeps the store in good order and we very occasionally find objects we had no idea we had!

This Monday passed we stumbled upon this Victorian electric shock therapy machine from around c1870s. In the late 19th century these machines (and adaptations of them!) were very popular due to the scientific discoveries being made at the time. In late-Victorian newspapers it is not uncommon to see advertisements for "electric corsets", "electric hairbrushes", and "electric belts" - mad-cap inventions in hindsight, but important nonetheless to the developments made in using electricity to enhance our daily lives.

The label on the Machine reads:
Connect two metallic cords or wires with the sockets in the ends of the Box, and apply handles connected with the other ends of the metallic cords or wires to any part of the person through which 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 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. The sponges should never be put inside the Box while wet as they rust the machinery. In applying it for the Toothache, Tic-Doloreaux or Neuralgia, the operator takes one Handle and places fingers or sponge over the part affected, while the patient hold the other Handle. In applying it to the foot place one of the Handles in the Water with the foot, and hold the other in the hand, or apply it to any other part of the person. The Bearings and Spring must be oiled occasionally".
The machine is now on display in our Chemist Shop.