by Alethea Drexler

Archives assistant

The verdict on what, exactly, is the previous Thingamajig–the dental item with the green glass bottle–has not yet come back.  I emailed the pictures to my uncle, who is a dentist, and he printed them out to ask around at the dental school to see if anyone recognizes it.  If a whole squad of dentists can’t figure out what it is, I won’t feel so badly that I couldn’t, either.

Today’s Thingamajig was suggested, and the photos provided, by McGovern intern Brenda Gunter.

Davis & Kidder magneto

With the handles

This little box is a Davis & Kidder magneto.  The Davis & Kidder magneto was patented in 1854 and the large number of them I found online suggests that they must have been quite popular in the mid- to late 19th century.  Some of them were advertised as still functional, which basically means that, if somebody holds onto the wire-wrapped metal handles while somebody else cranks the wheel in the box, the person with the handles will get an electric buzz.  They were advertised as being able to cure pretty much anything under the sun, which was a common claim of early patent medicines and medical devices, but didn’t really have any therapeutic value.  Think of it as a very elaborate hand-buzzer.

An old manual can be read online at the Electrotherapy Museum.

Some other examples can be seen here, here, at Sparkmuseum, and here, and earned a mention at the highly-amusing Museum of Quackery online.

Posted in Thingamajig

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