II-115171 | Electric equipment for Dr. Brown, Montreal, QC, 1896

Electric equipment for Dr. Brown, Montreal, QC, 1896
Wm. Notman & Son
1896, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Industry (942) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Therapeutic uses of electricity first emerged in the mid?19th century, but it was not until the 1890s that electrotherapy took hold in Canadian hospitals and small private clinics. Early practitioners had great hopes for the curative powers of this new energy.

Although some benefits were later recognized in the field of physiotherapy, many of the merits then claimed for electricity were grossly exaggerated. Doctors hailed it as a cure for tuberculosis, breast cancer, bronchitis, obesity and diabetes. One electrotherapy advocate maintained that he had treated a neurasthenic patient whose "nervous battery" had been drained by intellectual overwork.

Generally, however, the alleged benefits were limited to the therapy's invigorating, restorative and stimulating effects. Among the panoply of available treatments, one designed for well-off gentleman promised to restore manly vigour through low-voltage electrical stimulation of the genitals. This type of service was in great demand.

D. Goulet, "La promesse des ceintures électriques : la vigueur retrouvée," Cap-aux-Diamants, Aux pays des hommes forts, spring 2002, pp. 33-37.

  • What

    Photograph of a crude electrotherapy appliance. This type of device prefigured the emergence of physiotherapy.

  • Where

    Pictured here in the private office of a Montreal doctor, this device was normally used in large Canadian hospitals.

  • When

    The photo dates from 1896 and was clearly meant to introduce an innovation. Electrotherapy was just beginning to take hold in Canada at that time.

  • Who

    Photographed by the Notman & Son studio, the appliance belonged to Dr. Brown of Montreal.