M996X.2.593.1-7 | Belt

1886-1900, 19th century
7.3 x 78 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Belt (103)
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Keys to History

Dr. Sanden (who may or may not have been a licensed physician) marketed his belt chiefly to men suffering from "loss of virility," "weakened organs" or reduced "physical and nervous strength" due to "youthful mistakes or indiscretions" or "excessive maturity." Sanden's ads tended to present the body as a battery in need of constant recharging.

He recommended wearing the belt during sleep. The pleasant current thus delivered to the weakened body parts would restore virility and strength for work; it would develop the vital power of the nerves and muscles, spark courage and self-confidence, stimulate the memory and all organs and brighten the user's gaze. And to top it all off, belt users were promised an "effortless cure."

These claims were based on a mechanical concept of the body: electricity was presented as a form of fuel, while the body was similar to an energy-burning machine. "Electricity, Sanden rhapsodized, "is like oil that soothes the body's tired mechanism, and without which there can be no progress."

D. Goulet, Le Commerce des maladies, (Quebec City: Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture, "Edmond De Nevers" series, 1987), pp. 32-36.

Traité élémentaire de matière médicale et guide pratique des soeurs de charité de l'Asile de la Providence (Montreal: Imprimerie de la Providence, 1890), pp. 859, 863-864.

  • What

    This more modest electric belt was made by the company of M. Sanden, a possibly self-styled doctor. Small batteries in pockets at the back of the belt generated the electrical current.

  • Where

    "Dr." Sanden saw patients at his office at 132 St. James Street in Montreal. He repeatedly attempted to expand his market to France, but with little success, it seems.

  • When

    The use of electric belts as a therapeutic remedy was booming between 1895 and 1910. According to his ads, "Dr." Sanden offered treatments Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • Who

    In the late 19th century, the Sanden company was run by W. D. Berry. It catered mainly to middleclass men, offering a suspended accessory for revitalizing their weakened parts.