If you were diagnosed at the turn of the century with lumbago, puking fever, black vomit, consumption, decrepitude, falling sickness, milk leg, ship fever, softening of the brain, St. Vitas dance, trench mouth, dropsy or heaven forbid, dyscrasy then chances are you were in big trouble. Not only did the “modern” medical community misunderstand most of these diseases, they were also clueless as to how to treat them.
To the Rescue
Facing a life of interminable pain and suffering, many sufferers of these diseases resorted to hundreds of unfounded medical treatments – sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. Here’s a brief list of some of the more popular medical treatments and the claims by their originators:
- The Magnetic Mug – Magnetic forces have long been used to cure everything from fatigue to lower back pain. A Colorado firm stated in their 1998 catalogue of products that their Magnetic Mug stores material between the stainless steel exterior and porcelain interior that magnetizes any beverage contained in it. By magnetizing the liquid, space is created between the beverage’s molecules, adding alkalinity to it. The alkalinity in beverages was refuted to facilitate absorption, minimizing dehydration and flushing out body toxins.
- The Battle Creek Vibratory Chair – Many people who enjoy a bowl of Corn Flakes in the morning are familiar with their inventor, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. Kellogg also designed a number of therapeutic devices, including The Battle Creek Vibratory Chair. After strapping the patient into the chair, it would shake violently and “stimulate intestinal peristalsis” that was beneficial to digestive disorders. Prolonged treatments were also used to cure a variety of maladies from headaches to back pain.
- The Toftness Radiation Detector – If the Toftness Radiation Detector looks suspiciously like the PVC piping and couplings you bought last summer at the Home Depot, it’s because it is. By passing PVC tubing outfitted with inexpensive lenses over the patient’s back, Chiropractors listened for a high-pitched “squeak” that meant that the device had detected areas of neurological stress, characterized by high levels of radiation. The device was widely used until 1984 when it was deemed worthless by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The Foot Operated Breast Enlarger – In the mid-1970’s, silicone breast implants were still in their infancy so, many women pining for larger breasts spent $9.95 for a foot-operated, vacuum pump and a series of cups that promised “larger, firmer and more shapely breasts in only 8 weeks”. As it turned out, over 4 million women were duped into buying a device that produced nothing more than bruising – even if they bought the entire kit that included a 1-ounce bottle of “Cleavage 6 Breast Enhancement” capsules.
- The Crystaldyne Pain Reliever – One of the most popular pain relievers on the market in 1996 was nothing more than a gas grill igniter. When the sufferer pushed on the plunger, the device sent a short burst of sparks and electric shocks through the skin to cure headaches, stress, arthritis, menstrual cramps, earaches, flu and nosebleeds. After being subjected to FDA regulations for medical equipment, the company disappeared with thousands of dollars, telling their consumers that “their device was in the mail”.
- The Prostrate Gland Warmer and The Recto Rotor – Even someone without the slightest imagination would cringe at the idea of inserting a 4 and a half inch probe into their rectum while connected to a blue light bulb and a 9-foot electrical cord. However, for thousands of adventurous consumers the gland warmer and recto rotor (that’s not rooter) promised the latest in quick relief from prostate problems, constipation and the piles.
- The Radium Ore Revigator – In 1925, thousand of unknowing consumers plunked down their hard-earned cash for a clay jar whose walls were impregnated with low-grade, radioactive ore. With no more radioactive material than that found on the dial of an inexpensive wristwatch, the Revigator promised to invigorate “tired” or “wilted” water – “…the cause of illness in one hundred and nine million out of the hundred and ten million people of the United States”.
- The Relaxacisor – For anyone who hated to exercise but still wanted a lithe, athletic body, the Relaxacisor was the answer. Produced in the early 1970’s, the Relaxacisor came with four adhesive pads that were applied to the body and connected by electrodes to a control panel. The device would deliver a series of electrical jolts to the body, taking the place of regular exercise – while reclining on a sofa. All 400,000 devices were recalled for putting the consumer at risk for miscarriages, hernias, ulcers varicose veins, epilepsy and exacerbating pre-existing medical conditions.
- The Timely Warning – In 1888, one of the most embarrassing and debilitating experiences a man could endure was an “amorous dream” or “night emission”. Fortunately, Dr. E.B. Foote came up with the “Timely Warning”, a circular, aluminum ring that was worn to prevent “…the loss of the most vital fluids of the system – those secreted by the testicular glands…”. For better or for worse, no diagrams have been found to support exactly how the device was worn.
Written for and excerpted from Armchair Reader The Gigantic Reader – West Side Publishing (September 7, 2009)