Jason Clarke Antiques
Freestanding D'Arsonval Electrotherapy or Diamerthy Machine by Victor Electric Corps
For sale, a very rare freestanding electrotherapy or diathermy machine by Victor Electric Corps of Chicago USA.
This monster of a machine has a wooden frame on a castor base, measuring five foot in height and eighteen inches square with a black and white veined marble control panel to the front. The panel contains a shut off lever to engage the power and various knobs and levers for variating the current that would be applied to the patient.
The machine is topped with a central discharge ball with a direct connection point for the various attachments and five other connection points around the outer edge. To the right side of the control panel is a recessed section containing holding clips for storing the attachments which would be used for applying the current to a patient. A number of these attachments remain with this machine including two retractable pulleys which allow the physician to extend them to the patient.
These machines were known to have been fitted variously with either Tesla or Oudin coils and this particular example given the manufacture is likely to have been fitted with the latter as Oudin’s work was largely a development upon D’Arsonval’s original experiments with electrotherapy. The discharge ball at the top can be unscrewed and the tapered wooden shaft removed to reveal a wax covered induction coil which would have facilitated the AC power required.
The top of the machine has an additional plate stating, “D’Arsonval Ulatraviolet” which gives some useful insight into the age and intended use of the machine. The French scientist Jaques-Arsene D’Arsonval (1851-1940) was a French physician with an interest in the effects of electricity on the human body. From 1889 he undertook early research on the effects of alternating current and discovered that electrical currents with a frequency of over 5000Hz did not cause muscular contractions which were the result of earlier electric shock treatments. The application of these high frequency currents were known as “D’Arsonval Currents” and were later used for diathermy, the application of electrically induced heat and in some cases sparks, for the purposes of therapy. The use of the word ultraviolet suggests that this machine would have also have been used for the applying low pressure gas electrodes which would emit ozone and ultraviolet light for the heat treatment of skin ailments.
This machine would have been reserved for physician’s surgeries, a higher powered and more serious version of the home kits which were sold during the period.
The manufacturer, Victor Electric Corps of Chicago was founded in 1893 by Charles Samms and Julius Wantz and began their business by supplying the dental industry. With the discovery of X-Rays in 1895 by the German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen, the partners quickly saw an opportunity to diversify and became one of the earliest US manufacturers of X-Ray equipment. By 1916, the company had merged with three of their competitors making Victor Electric Corps one of the biggest players in the international market.
In 1920, they agreed a merger with General Electric and were renamed as the Victor X-Ray Corporation with Samms and Wantz maintaining overall management of the organisation. Things did not however work favourably for the enterprising pair and the company was all but subsumed into General Electric and by 1930 had been renamed as the General Electric X-Ray Corporation. It still exists today under the guise of GE Healthcare.
Diathermy as mentioned above, was first discovered by D’Arsonval in the late eighteen eighties and early eighteen nineties. It was used experimentally for the next ten years and was popularised in around 1908 by the German physician Karl Franz Nagelschmidt who is considered to have coined the name of the treatment. It saw its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s but still remains in use today.
With the reference to D’Arsonval and the trading dates for The Victor Electric Corps, this early machine of its type would have been manufactured between 1900 & 1910. An extremely scarce and historic piece of electrotherapy equipment.