We were closed last Friday because of a move. Two of our excellent staff members from the Rare Books Room at the Texas Medical Center Library have joined us over at the HRC. Moving is exhausting!
by Kate Wilson, Archivist
In processing the D. H. Rankin Medical Artifacts Collection I have found myself intrigued with the Electreat Mechanical Heart. I’m not really sure what draws me to this object- maybe the fact that we have six of them in the collection or maybe the incredibly illustrated promotional flyer that accompanies the device. Whatever it is, I find myself sucked into the vastness of the internet, jumping from hyperlink to webpage, learning more and more about this quack medical object.
The Electreat Mechanical Heart is a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device first patented in 1919 by Charles Willie Kent and manufactured in Peoria, Illinois. It has been estimated that as many as 250,000 of the Electreats were sold over a 25 years. The device operated on two “D” cell batteries and a mechanical inductorium. A roller was built in at the top to be applied to the skin and plug-in sponge pad electrodes were supplied.
The Electreat was one of the very first high-output battery operated TENS units manufactured. Following passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938, Kent was the first individual prosecuted by the U.S. government for making unsubstantiated medical claims. Kent was prosecuted multiple times for making unsubstantiated claims, first in 1940 and then again in 1950. You can read both of the original proceedings available on the National Library of Medicine’s website.
I have forever been plagued with dry and chapped skin on my feet. Maybe I can take one of the Electreat Mechanical Hearts home and experiment with its healing electric bath powers as suggested in the third row, second image!
By Kate Wilson, Archivist
The McGovern Historical Collections recently received a collection of early twentieth century medical artifacts. The collector, a family physician in Austin, Texas, had a personal interest in hearing related devices and quack medicine, so most of the objects in the collection can fall into those categories.
The first step in processing a collection is organizing the materials into categories; archivists call this arrangement. An archivist must try and balance the original order (respect des fonds) with an imposed order that will allow for physical and intellectual control over the materials.
With a traditional manuscript collection, a doctor’s personal and professional paper for example, archivist have fairly agreed upon series and sub-series. With such a unique collection as this one, I will have to come up with a nontraditional organizational schema. Luckily, arrangement is probably one of my favorite tasks of being an archivist!
Stay tuned to the Black Bag to follow along with the process!
by Philip Montgomery
This Dental Deck for the NDB exam appeared at the Texas Medical Center Library’s book drop. Staff on the circulation desk called the McGovern Historical Center and offered us the deck. We snapped it up.
It is a curious set of flashcard. In my mind flash cards are something I used in elementary school to study phonics or simple math. Enlarge the photo and you can see that these flashcards require serious study. My hat is off to every dental student who has earned advanced degrees in dentistry.
by Philip Montgomery, archivist
I was flipping through our collection of Medical World News photos looking for vaccination shots when I ran across this photo from March of 1965.
I found this photo in a folder titled “Immunization [small pox] Tonga.” I opened the folder expecting to see images of healthcare workers vaccinating inhabitants of the Pacific island nation of Tonga. I did not expect to see this cosmetically enhanced elephant hauling men and portable sprayers through a wetland. Click on the image to see a larger view.
This photo contains elements of humor, beauty, and a touch of eco-horror. The guy on the rear of the elephant provides the humor for me. It looks like a dreadful place to ride, but he seems content. I wonder if he called the rear seat? I love the landscape because it reminds of the fantastic green wetlands south of Houston. Without a doubt the elephant is the center of the picture. My eyes keep straying back to those kohl-lined eyes and the cosmetics on the forehead. The motion of the powerful legs, the white of the water cresting around the legs gives this picture momentum.
The caption for this photo says this elephant and the crew are part of an anti-malaria campaign started in India in 1958 and continuing to the time this picture was captured in March 1965. According to the caption malaria spray teams often used elephants to reach remote areas.
The eco-horror is that bucket in the photo. It could be lunch, but my money is on a bucket full of pesticide. Just a hunch.
by Philip Montgomery, archivist
One of our volunteers found two trowels in a cabinet. The trowels are in excellent shape and relatively unused. I suppose they were used for the laying of a cornerstone or some masonry project related to a new construction.
There is no story related to these objects. No record. No names. Just two trowels. Flotsam subject to archival drift.
Archival drift is a term I just invented to describe objects that are gathered into archives for no apparent reason and then stay. There are several objects that seem to have drifted permanently into the archives, including a three-pronged knife, a Sigmund Freud action figure, and a stuffed fish.
I suppose at sometime a prominent individual wielded these trowels, but his or her identity remains a mystery. For trowel aficionados, the bottom tool was manufactured by the W. Rose company and is well made.
One final thought. It occurred to me that archival drift can also be applied to people, which may explain something about me. I may have to chew on that thought for awhile.
by Philip Montgomery, archivist
I want to be perfectly clear at the beginning of this post that being an archivist is a tough job. I can’t even begin to describe the trials that come with being an archivist. You have your dirt, your mold, your sneezing, your cold temperatures, your silverfish, your 50 year-old hypodermics, your jar of gall stones, your fake eyeballs. You get the picture. I have to make very clear that this is a difficult job, because someone out there will not understand that reading comic books is just another one of those things I have to do. [big archivist sigh goes here]
Click on the image to see details.
The McGovern Historical Collections houses two comic books both of which are related to dentistry and in the Autrey collection. I have read both of these comics…..multiple times. One comic features Dr. Strange, whom you may remember as a psychic, mystical master of dark arts. Today’s comic book features Superman, the Man of Steel, getting his tooth pulled. This is exactly the type of subject that would prompt deep philosophical discussions among my grade-school friends about the nature of superpowers and dentistry. For example, does Superman’s tooth retain superpower strength even though it has been pulled out of his head?
The most noticeable aspect of this cover is the depiction of pain. The artist nailed pain right to the wall. I will hazard a guess that this is the least collectible Superman comic ever printed, which might be some claim to fame. To put that in a more positive light, this has to be the most lame Superman story line of all time. Now that is something to chew on.
Frankly, the message from this cover is clear and substantiates what my grade school buddies and I knew all along. That no power can resist a dentist with true grit and forearms as big as hams. For the record, my dentist is wonderful, gentle and very professional. He is also a graduate of the UT School of Dentistry.
Someday, I will show you the Sigmund Freud action doll we have in the archives. He even has a replica rug mouse pad.