This strange looking machine is one of hundreds of "Quack" devices sold and used by people in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The machine on the left was prominently used during the Civil War. As electricity became more and more a part of peoples lives, curiosity about its possible healing powers became a subject of great interest. Some took advantage of this curiosity by inventing devices that was said to heal by giving an electric jolt to the patient. People claimed these devices would heal everything from impotency to back pain to "female nervous disorders". Many of these devices were advertised in popular magazines at the time. One would mail in a form to receive your own personal machine. In the 1930s, the government began a gradual crackdown on these quack devices. Now, they are avidly searched for by collectors.
The device pictured to the left is such a piece. Davis and Kidder promoted this machine as healing nervous disorders by using the "Patent Magneto" to give one an electric shock.
By spinning the handle vigorously, an electric shock would be transmitted to two electrodes that were placed on the patients fingers. It is estimated that 100 volts and 50-100mA are possible. Based on the projected electrical output this is most likely intended for nerve stimulation and muscle contraction rather than for pain relief. This unit includes the original label in the lid stating the patent date of 1854. The label states that it is intended for "nervous diseases" and includes patient testimonials. This machine still works today (if you're brave enough to try it).
This item is for sale under the "Odd and Unusual" category of our store.