Jason Clarke Antiques

Edwardian Portable Heavy Discharge X-Ray Coil by Harry W Cox & Co Ltd London


For sale, a rare Edwardian Portable Heavy Discharge Coil by Harry W Cox & Co limited.

This rare example is comprised of a mahogany case with a hidden coil and an interruptor, power seithc and connection points accessible at the side of the box by means of a hinged flap. The discharging rods are attached to the underside of the lid for transit and are placed at connecting points above the coil when use is required.

An ivorine plate remains at the centre of the lid, stating: “Harry W Cox & Co Ltd, Actual Makers of X-Ray & Electric Therapeutic Apparatus, 9,10 & 11 Cursitor St, Chancery Lane, England”.

The box measures 65cms in length, 26cms in depth and 30cms in height and has brass carrying handles wither side.

An Edwardian Catalogue provides the following description:

“We were the pioneers of portable outfits, and although many professional men continue to give preference to the ordinary form of coil, we venture to predict that the portable pattern will eventually come into most favour, for the following reasons:

The portable coil, if properly constructed, is in every respect as powerful and effective as the other. The proviso is necessary, because as our experiments have proved, if the casing be not carefully constructed, and of suitable materials, a leakage of current will inevitably result. It is also possible to overstep the limits to which the size and weight of the coil may be safely reduced. Our portable coild are made as light and compact as practicable, without impairing their inefficiency, and we invite X-Ray workers to compare by test, the power of these coils with that of any other coils in the market, of equal spark-gap.

Our portable outfit justifies its appellation. It can be readily carried from place to place by a medical man in his brougham or dog cart and used at the patient’s bed-side. When not in use, the apparatus is completely protected from dust. To veterinary surgeons it should prove specially serviceable.

These coils are fitted with our improved oscillating platinum contact breaker, and with quarter inch platinum contacts, and provided with separate terminals for working with mercury, or electrolytic interrupters.

The ball socket discharge pillars fit into the tops of the coil by means of plugs, and when not in use are carried in clips inside the cover of the box. The latter is made of best seasoned mahogany, and the entire apparatus is of the finest English workmanship and finish throughout, and a model of compactness.

We should again impress upon customers that these coild are as effective as those illustrated in Fig 1 but are more compact and portable.

In regards to the heavy discharge coil (Fig 1) it relates that:

“Some of the leading hospitals and X-Ray workers have had our Base Coils, of the above pattern, in use for upwards of six years, and report to us that they still give highly satisfactory results.

With any of the above mentioned sizes, used in conjunction with our fluorescent screens, the spine, ribs and liver in the human body, as well as the movement of the heart and diaphragm can be plainly discerned.”

This portable model was sold in various sizes in reference to the size of the spark produced. The three models available at the time would have cost between £2000 and £3000, a huge sum for the time.

Harry William Charles Cox was born in Shoreditch in 1864, the son of a plumber. How Cox found his success remains unclear. An early catalogue quotes a feature in The Lancet of 1898 after a meeting of the British Medical Association where Cox himself demonstrated his English made coils and fluorescent screens for X-Rays. It is therefore safe to assume that Cox was in business soon after the discovery of the X-Ray by the German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in 1895.

For the next twelve years Cox seems to have gained huge success with his X-Ray outfits being supplied to The King for use onboard The Royal Yacht - Victorian & Albert (the portable model shown here), The Admiralty, The War Office, The India Office, The Colonial Office and hospital far and wide across England and overseas. He is also known to have supplied apparatus for use in the field during The Boer War.

The success was sadly short-lived owing to the lack of understanding around this new technology and the huge amount of experimentation that Cox undertook within this new field of science.

He died from exposure in 1910 and his obituary in The Engineer publication of the same year reads as follows:

We have to record with regret the death on Saturday last of Mr. Harry W. Cox, who has been fitly termed a martyr to science. Mr. Cox was an electrician who devoted his life to the study of the X-rays from the time of their discovery by Rontgen in 1895, and succeeded in greatly improving the necessary apparatus, especially that type of it which is peculiarly adapted for surgical purposes. The effects of the rays on the human body were not thoroughly understood when he commenced to investigate and manufacture the apparatus, or possibly his life need not have been sacrificed. While their beneficent effects in some cases was fully established, the fact that under certain circumstances or when applied too frequently these rays could do serious damage was unsuspected, or at any rate ignored.

About eight years ago, Mr. Cox, when engaged in some investigations, noticed a mark on one of his hands. It was the commencement of the trouble, and eventually what is now known as X-ray dermatitis, made its appearance. For this disease, which it is said has much resemblance to cancer, there is at present no known cure. Gradually at first, and latterly more quickly, the disease took hold of its victim. First the left hand, then the right hand and arm were effected. Amputation was resorted to, but was of no avail, and finally the neck and head were attacked.

In spite, however of intense suffering and the knowledge that no mortal aid could help him, Mr. Cox continued his business, striving to make and making more perfect the apparatus which was to be such a help and blessing to others, till, a few months back, even his indomitable will could no longer urge on his crippled body, and he had to give up work. For months, nay, for years, he suffered agony which was sometimes intense, but it is said of him that he was never known to complain, and - in a word - cheerfully laid down his life for the good of others.

The address present on the machine would suggest that this coil was created towards the end of Cox’s life as he is recorded there in circa 1909.

Please note: Tempting as it is, I have not attempted to electrocute myself or my family with this so any onward tinkering is entirely at the new owner’s risk and I do not guarantee it to be working.

An important piece of early English made X-Ray equipment from the pioneering years, largely employed by military field hospitals and naval ships of the era.

The address would suggest an earlier trading date for Cox, circa 1900.

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