Quack Quack

aaHave you ever had a
constant ringing in your ears ?

And I don’t mean the kind
that you get for a short time
after a migraine, or a
Justin Beiber concert.

I mean a high pitched sound
that won’t go away–
— and plugging your ears
just makes it worse.

It’s called tinnitus,
and I can’t even
imagine what kinda crazy
it would drive me to,
but some people have
to suffer with it,
day in and day out.

So imagine how relieved
those poor folks would be
if somebody told em that
they had invented a cure.

A company in Brooklyn, New York
did just that around 1900.

tinnitusLet your wondering eyes

( not to mention your sore ears and aching head )

behold the wonder of the age —

The Violin Vibrophone.

Oh, don’t get me wrong now….

It didn’t work .

But they did sell about 120,000
of ’em at about 600 bucks in today’s money.

Let me tell you how it worked.

Oh sorry….
how it didn’t work.

This mechanical violin thingee
had all kinds of cool little dials on it,
that you could adjust, so that it
would play a constant note
at the exact same frequency
as your ear ringing sound.

How would that help, you ask?

Hahaha, well there-in lies the rub, my friend.

The only difference was in that
when you finally lost your
ever-lovin’ mind completely,
you wouldn’t know whether
to blame the disease or the cure.

Welcome to the world of
vintage medical quackery devices,
and another of our posts about it.

So strap in, my little friends………
( evil laugh trails off in the distance )

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

He’s always putting crummy
disclaimers on his posts,
that don’t have anything
to do with the subject at hand..
it’s just a cheap device going for a cheaper laugh. “

Well, you couldn’t be further
from the truth..
although now that I think about it,
I’m not sure why I decided to
add a disclaimer to this here thing,
exceptin it be to remind you that
this stuff is supposed to be
somewhat funny, even though
it is the real skinny…..

and to warn you that if you
find anything offensive
about the skeletal system
of a healthy female type
person around 35,
might want to skip this post
and go read something else.

Cause it’s comin’.



I’m no technological reactionary.

I got no problem with it………

I’m not one of those guys
who bucks every new gizmo that comes along.

Like these scanners at the airport.

I can see how these things
can actually be put to very good use.


But it’s not like every technological
marvel that has come along
has been proven to be a boon to mankind.

Some stuff…..,
……. well, I just don’t see
how they got away with selling it.

Like this gizzie for instance.


It was called the “Robot Phrenologist” ……..

And as if phrenology as a science
wasn’t goofy enough already …

( it was the practice of determining
one’s personality by reading the bumps on your head)

…. this gizmo used vacuum tubes
to interpret them automatically.

All you had to do was strap
the headgear on, and have plenty of gullible.

Way back when….
almost last week, really,
any product could be marketed
as Doctor Somebody’s Remedy
for such and such…..4

No Doctor required.

So, you had a lot of crap masquerading as cure.


This here fine product is an example….

It’s called Doctor William’s Pink Pills for Pale People.

It’s miracle ingredients were all of 3 minerals–

Iron, Manganese, and Copper.

Any lessening of paleness in people
taking this stuff was most likely due to rust.

The device below is called the Heidelberg Electric Belt…..

…… you notice that little electric loop down at the bottom of it?


Well, guess what you do with that.

It would send little electric shocks down
through the belt and into that loopy thing.


Do I smell meat burning?

While we’re on the subject of male anatomy…..


This device was recently patented….

it’s supposedly for the relief of problems with obtaining erections.

It’s — yes — you guessed it –
—- a penis exerciser.

Apparently, you stick your member in one end,
and then, by adjusting the spring tension,
and moving that paddley thing up and down,
…… you’d be doing the same basic thing as penis pull ups.

Really, I’m not that good
at reading technical drawings, but…..


Nobody’s putting Little Elvis in a penis pullup machine.


He gets his exercise the old fashioned way.




Need A Doctor ?

c1Got that blah feeling —
No energy ?

Having problems
keeping the yang up?

Maybe you need a Doctor ?

Too expensive, huh?

Well, you could always
consult Dan Cupid, M.D. —

“Dan Cupid M.D.”
was a best selling
postcard series
by Boston Globe
(and M.I.T. Grad)
Walter Wellman,
released around the
turn of the century.

The cards are mostly dated
between 1905 and 1908.

Although the series did feature
some suggestive art and captions,
they were mostly pretty mild —

But, anything
but run of the mill.

Wellman was quite popular
for his illustrations at the time,
and these cards made himsympathy
almost a household name.

As a successful artist,
he had no trouble
lampooning the social trends
and practices of the era,

— and this series of cards
targeted the medical profession,
and the tendencies
of it’s practitioners,
toward all-knowing,
and self-righteousness.

The Doctor is question,
— Dan Cupid, M.D.,
seemed to be very goodbeach
with making pat diagnoses,
and stating the obvious —

Not to mention charging
exorbitant fees for doing same.

Really, stuff doesn’t seem
to have changed
that much, I guess.

Except of course,
the house calls thing —
which is long dead,
around here, anyway.

The series started outlemon
giving snarky advice
about love —
but pretty soon,
had branched out into
all sorts of different subjects.

Reading between the lines
is very important in
understanding a Wellman card —

—  any Wellman card —

but especially these.

You’ll probably notice
that in these cards,shake
Wellman has a propensity
to hide sardonic
messages in them.

A favorite tactic of his, yes.

In this case,
he usually put a sign
on the wall in the background,
with some message he thought
would skew the card’s
tone off to the viewer.

On the right,
you see the sign says:
“I’m so lonesome” —

Note the rather10
unattractive lady,
with the rather attractive
bag of money,
on the love seat.

And the seeming ardency
of the suitor, on the floor.

There’s also a black cat
for good measure.


That notwithstanding,

the original sender
of that particular card,
wasn’t satisfied withrepeat
it’s snarkiness level —
because he crossed off
‘soothing syrup’ —
and added the word ‘cider’…

as if to suggest
that maybe the receiver
needed to cut back
on their drinking a bit, too.

getting mail back then
could be a traumatizing
experience, apparently.

My favorites are the onesderrick
dealing with dating and mating….

But married couples who fought
like cats and dogs got
the Wellman treatment,

— as you can see in this next card.

It seems as if
maybe the husband got the
worst of that particular argument, huh?

Plasters were what passed as
bandages before the days
of SpongeBob Band Aids.

( I do like the a1a
Scooby Doo ones, too. )

I’d say the advice given on this card
was worth the five bucks, in this case.

Violence never helped
ANY relationship improve.

Take it from your Ole Uncle Nuts.

Wellman postcards
can be an
educational experience,

and certainly a fun one,

and there are plenty
more Walter Wellmanwellman1
masterworks in my archive,

——– should you
wish to dig deeper.

Just click on the link
that says: Wellman Art .

You know, like, right there.

In the meantime,
remember to stay healthy
and be sure to take your meds.


!!!! HOY !!!!!!


Medical Non-Miracles

aToday we look at some fascinating–
( and completely worthless ) vintage medical devices–

the Zerret Applicator,
Drown Radio-Vision Therapy,
and the Dentaphone.

You mighta have noticed that I’m interested in the subject of spurious technology.

To me, it’s bad enough that much of the stuff that actually does work,
doesn’t really improve your life,
or at least half as much as it improves the bottom line.

But when you’ve been suckered into buying something that is all sizzle,
—and no steak, well…

dirtyforkIt’s enough to make a man mad.

MmmmM M A D DddddD.

Hide the cleavers.

The truth is,

As bad as it is today,
with all our:

‘as seen on TV’,

‘sprinkle this on your french fries and lose weight’

‘boost your testosterone naturally with the latest herbal placebo’,

‘get one free when you pay double the exorbitant shipping charges’ culture….

It was much worse seventy five years ago.


Let’s have a look , shall we?


Now, being over 29 by some years — we won’t discuss by how many….

I know that hearing loss can be a real phenomena of aging.

And if I look like an idiot asking folks to repeat themselves, well, I’m ok with that.

But this device here — hmmmm.

It’s called a “Dentaphone”.

Basically, it was a round flat case using a thin diaphragm in the shape of a flat cone to pick up sound.

The user held the case out towards the sound he wanted to hear, and then placed the reed-like device in his mouth.

When sound was picked up by the diaphragm, it was supposed to vibrate the sound into the reed and then on into the teeth, via a piece of silk-covered wire.

Not only would you feel foolish because of how silly the thing looks,

But you’d be uncomfortable because your teeth would be rattling somethin awful.

And you’d still have to take the thing outta yer mouth to ask them to repeat themselves.

Assuming you really could hear through your teeth, how are you supposed to hold a conversation wearing it?

Interestingly enough, I guess, the Washington University School of Medicine says this type of gizmo is actually ” a bizarre, yet effective device that used bone conduction to transmit sound” — so, there you are.

I’d rather have an amp that went up to eleven.

Now, if you’re anything like me,
you were a bit disappointed with that last device….

I like to talk about stuff that has ABSOLUTELY NO REDEEMING VALUE at all ,

……… and that one seemed to have a little tiny bit.

Although I still don’t see the practicality of a Jimi Hendrix solo rattlin’ yer molars.

But we won’t get mired down with any notions of practicality with this next device.

And it’s a doooozey.


Hurry, hurry, hurry….

Step right up my friends….

(Don’t crowd, now, plenty for everybody…)

Step up and witness a medical miracle marvel that will revolutionize the treatment of any and all diseases, maladies, syndromes, ailments, aches, pains, and yes, even heartache.

Step right up and meet the Zerret Applicator.


As advanced and high falootin an impression as the snappy name makes,

Even more wizz-bang is the technology involved.

Consisting of two plastic globes, filled with a mystical fluid — Zerret Water

And infused with a powerful substance called Z-RAYS….

…………………. “a force unknown to science”.

brainsaltZ Rays.

Zerret Water.

Sounds spiffy so far…. tell me more.

According to it’s instruction manual:

” When you hold the Applicator, it works on your life current, expanding the atoms of the same.
As this takes place, it expands all atoms of your being. Expansion of your atoms produces what is commonly called relaxation. ”

Hmmmm.. relaxation.

I think I heard of that…..

Now, it’s also important–
— with something this powerful —
that you use it properly.

The manual instructs the user to hold it in both hands, uncross your legs, and make sure all your fingers were in contact with the device.

It was to be used for 15 minutes, 3 times daily.

Ok… so … you ask….
just how effective was this thing?

Well, a whole mess of ’em were sold in the 1940’s and 50’s for fifty bucks a piece.

dilatorUntil an analysis showed that the device was nothing but plastic and Chicago city tap water.

The “inventor”,
a William Ferguson, of Chicago,
( surprise, surprise ) was eventually sentenced to two years in jail.

However, I must tell you,
that despite the fact that most of the Zerret Applicators were destroyed,
there still are some out there….

SO if you find one,
do be careful of them powerful Z-Rayz.

You can never be too careful, ya know.


The brainchild of one Doctor Ruth B. Drown of Los Angeles, this next mechanical marvel was called:

the Drown Radio-Vision Instrument“……..

And it is described as : “…. the only known method by which pathological and histological cross sectional photographs of the soft tissue and hard tissue of the human body may be obtained.”

Uh huh.

Alrighty then… about how it works.

The “Humanitarian Research Foundation”, which continues to pitch these machines even today, explains it’s operating principles this way:

Fundamentally, the theory is based on the fact that everything having form in the physical world is made up of molecules. The molecular arrangement establishes the outer form of the substance. These molecules consist of whirling particles of electricity. This motion produces a definite emanation from all physical substances, which may be brought under direct observation through the specialized use of pinacyanole bromide filters and screens. ”

a1Pinacyanole bromide filters and screens… got it.

Ok… then what?

“... a blood crystal from a human being, held in a piece of blotting paper, carries the complete energy pattern of the owner’s body. The blood crystal is perpetually resonant to the owner, no matter where on earth the owner may be. The blood crystal is the visible end of an invisible line connected to the owner as long as he lives, and for a short time afterwards. “


So… once you’ve got a sample of blood on a piece of blotting paper, you put it in the machine, and it can make pictures of all your organs based on it.

No need for you to even be in the same state as the good Doctor — as long as they got your blood sample, they can use the vibrations from it to tell you what’s wrong with you….

…………. Even if you’re dead.

Hell, they didn’t have stuff this advanced on Star Trek.


I bet you’re wondering just how intricately delicate and electronically sophisticated this thing musta been……

“The Drown Diagnostic Instrument is a very simple impedance rheostat, consisting of nine dials, each of which can select ten tuning stubs by its rotation. Each dial is numbered from 1 to 10, each dial position making contact with a stub. The possible combinations permitted by this arrangement exceed two billion”.

More light on the subject comes from an article written by Drown disciple Trevor Constable who explains:

The Drown Instrument is analogous to any other instrument used for the reception and detection of a broadcast. It must have an antenna. In fact, the whole Drown Instrument is nothing but a tunable antenna, so simple in layout that electronics experts have been deceived into thinking that it is nothing but a straight wire, electrically speaking. ”

magnetoWhile it would seem that a big old box full of rheostats and wires going nowhere wouldn’t be much good for stuff like diagnosing illnesses and all, Doctor Drown was very persuasive, and several thousand of the devices between 1929 and 1960 were produced and sold — at $3000 a pop.

Some would say it was all relatively harmless…

A couple thousand gullible-but-wealthy rubes taken for a ride on a harmonic frequency generated by a blood crystal.

But these things were mostly sold to Doctors, as diagnostic systems.

Which means it was used on heaven knows how many patients.

It was said to be good for diagnosing everything from cancer to kidney stones, from flu to flatulence.

The first time I remember hearing about the thing was in a lawsuit case regarding the death of a patient with breast cancer, who had deferred treatment on the advice of a Drown practitioner….

A study in 1941 at the University of Chicago showed just how silly the whole thing could get —

One of the test subjects, an elderly female, subjected to a Drown diagnosis, was reported to have “ a normal function of the uterus and the prostate “.

Oh jeez…

Just think of the fun she coulda had,
……………… if she’d known about THAT sooner.