This electrotherapeutic device was produced by the company 'Ediswan'. This company is historically significant due to its founders, Thomas Edison and Sir Joseph Swan. There has always been debate over who was the true inventor of the electric light bulb. In England, in 1878, Sir Joseph Swan demonstrated his new long lasting electric light bulb to the public, and his innovation was subsequently published in scientific journals. One year later, in the USA, Thomas Edison, then owner of the General Electric electricity company, patented his own carbon filament light bulb. Swan's initial findings were published before Edison made his discovery, leading to a law suit that Edison lost. The British courts forced Edison, as part of the settlement, to name Swan as a partner in his electric company. Eventually, Edison managed to acquire all of Swan's interest in the newly renamed Edison and Swan United Electric Company. In the year 1883 the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company Limited (later renamed Ediswan), was formed and became one of the world's largest manufactures of light bulbs.
Personal electrotherapeutic devices, such as this one, were first manufactured in the late 1800s. They came in various forms and most claimed to cure a fantastic array of ailments. The 'violet ray' high frequency apparatus was one such device. Many people must have sought relief from their ills, aches and pains with a 'violet ray' machine. Some scholars believe these types of machines to be the first examples of electric sexual vibrators, as they were claimed to be able to treat 'hysteria' in woman by being used internally. Others thought they were examples of 'quack medicine' peddled by fraudulent physicians.
The box holding this machine has the name Dr. J. Bodkin Adams printed on it. It is believed to have belonged to the infamous Dr John Bodkin Adams who was a British general practitioner in the 1900s and had numerous patients die under suspicious circumstances. He was trialled and acquitted of one murder; however, years after his own death conflicting views remain about whether Bodkin Adams was guilty of murder or euthanasia.
Maine, Rachel, The Technology of Orgasm, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, USA, 2001
Written by Erika Dicker
Assistant Curator 2007