M973.165.1.1-3 | ELECTRO-VIGUEUR

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1875-1900, 19th century
9.5 x 24.8 cm
Gift of Mrs. Rose A. Rey and Mrs. Evelyn Rey
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Belt (103)
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Keys to History

Advances in electric technology made it possible to market new medical appliances for consumer use. One of the more popular devices was the electric belt. In the early 1890s, widely read newspapers like La Presse, The Montreal Daily Star and The Toronto Star were peppered with ads for the "doctor designed" Sanden and McLaughlin belts.

Such products were easy to use. Generated by built-in battery cells, the current was conducted by copper wires along the belt to rounded electrodes of aluminium, silver or other metals. The strategically placed electrodes delivered small quantities of electricity to various parts of the body.

Designed principally for a masculine clientele, the belts sometimes came with "accessories for men" that covered the genitals. In an ad in The Toronto Star, one belt manufacturer boasted that he had restored strength and vigour to more than 50,000 people.

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

Source : Cures and Quackery: The Rise of Patent Medicines [Web tour], by Denis Goulet, Université de Sherbrooke (see Links)

  • What

    Deluxe electric belt made by "Dr." McLaughlin. The three large "electro-vigour" electrodes were first sheathed in water-soaked chamois leather and then applied to the desired spots.

  • Where

    "Dr." McLaughlin advertised his belts in the Toronto Star and the Montreal Daily Star. It appears that he sold primarily on the Canadian market.

  • When

    From 1895 to 1910, the electric belt market was at its peak.

  • Who

    Judging from the quality of his belt, "Dr." McLaughlin targeted a clientele of well-off English- and French-speaking Canadians.