"How exactly does one of these work?" you may ask. Well, let's let its inventor, Dr. Powell, explain it...

Dr. Powell's Vibrator

The Vibrator at the top of this page wasn't Powell's only product. He produced at least two models of an electric version. The first, patented in 1903 (patent no.741,371), was called an Electro-Vabratory Cure for Deafness. It resembles the patent drawing more closely. The second, which shows up in advertisements as early as 1905, was similarly named as the Electro-Vibratory Apparatus for the Cure of Deafness and was a more compact, portable version. Again, these were probably relatively the same; a model "A" and an improved model "B." They were initially offered for $100 each but it is purported that Powell would accept as little as $15.

After Powell died, in 1911, his Electro-Vibratory Apparatus began to be sold by another con artist, Dr. L.C. Grains. Grains sold the exact same device with an almost identical marketing campaign. He simply replaced Powell's name and likeness to his own. No evidence suggests that Grains sold the non-electric Vibrator.

"Place the Vibrator in the ears and mouth, as seen in the cut. Hold the ends in the ears snugly with the hands, suck gently with the mouth for about a second, then stop for a second, and keep repeating this operation for about three minutes. In case of deafness the ear drum is sunken in, and by sucking with the mouth it is drawn out, and then by stopping the drum collapses back again. In this way the drum is worked and is brought back to its normal flexibility. After doing this for about three minutes then the patient should repeat the letter "B" softly for about half a minute, still holding the mouth over the ends of the tube. By saying this the drum and chain of bones are vibrated and sound is brought directly to the auditory nerve, thus stimulating it to activity. The instrument should be used every other night. When only one ear is affected one tube should be put in the ear, and the finger should be held over the end of the other tube."

ca.1905

Dr. Guy Clifford Powell

Peoria, IL, U.S.

As far as quack medical devices go, this has to be one of my faves. Dr. Guy Clifford Powell (1868 - 1911), "International Specialist," swore this stethoscope-without-its-chestpiece could cure deafness. Powell, a mail-order snake oil salesman, provided fake credentials, claims and product testimonials. Even the image he used of his offices was a doctored image of random building.

What makes the non-electric Vibrator interesting is that it is basically an extremely stripped-down version of the electric models. Note that, in the patent drawing, stethoscope tubes are present. Also, note the broken stethoscope tubes that are still present with the Electro-Vibratory Apparatus from the Linden Collection. The tubes are exactly the same as the ones that came with the non-electric vibrator. Obviously, Powell did not want to lose out on any sales so he offered the basic model.

Lastly, Dr. Powell's Vibrator is interesting, especially today, because it has much, much less value without its original packaging. Without its packaging, the stethoscope is really just a pair of ribbed, white tubes with black, rubber fittings that would be impossible to prove were original.

If you happen to find Dr. Powell's Vibrator, and you want to sell it, please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com