One such torture device was patented in 1916 under UK patent no.3870/15 and US patent no.1,174,275. Its inventor was Dr. Richard James Pitcher (1871 - 1946) of London. Rather ironically (or maybe aptly), Dr. Pitcher was a music teacher and organist who, in 1913, wrote "Recitative and its rendering, illustrated with numerous examples.” Within the patent's paperwork, Pitcher referred to his invention as a device "...commonly known as finger exerciser or hand expander for use by music learners."

Pitcher Finger Spreading Device


Dr. Richard J. Pitcher 

London, England, UK


From about the year 1900 until into the 1930's, there was no shortage of odd finger spreaders, finger exercisers and hand expanders marketed towards musicians. Such devices were meant to limber the appendages. Unfortunately, in some instances, as with the Ochydactyl, the devices did the opposite when they broke the user's fingers.

Pitcher's spreading device consisted of 4 wood blocks, two wing nuts and two brass tracks. To exercise the four fingers, the user would slide the tall, interior block out along the track and then slide the fingers down the two taller blocks. Pushing the interior block out further to stretch the fingers further. To exercise the thumb, the user would stack the interior block atop the one short one and slide the thumb and pointer down the blocks. It was crude and mostly ineffective so not a marketable success.

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