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60 Smith Street
Qld 4163
07 3286 3494

Ultrasan High Frequency Electrotherapeutic Apparatus

Object Number: R12736

Quackery is the promotion of fraudulent or ignorant medical practices. The term quack is clipped form of the archaic term quacksalver, from Dutch kwakzalver, a hawker of salve. In the Middle Ages the term quack meant shouting – the quacksalvers sold their wares in the market shouting in a loud voice. Unproven, usually ineffective, and sometimes dangerous medicines and treatments have been peddled throughout human history, and still are. This object is an early 20th century example of quackery that used the amazement of science to trick the gullible into parting with their money.

This apparatus uses a Tesla coil mounted in a wooden control box to provide a low current, high frequency, high voltage, to illuminate gas discharge tubes. The tubes have a very low pressure of gas, probably argon, to produce a violet glow. 21 tubes of different shapes are intended for treatment to different parts of the body. No doubt the violet glow and the different shaped tubes added to its mystique and convinced the user of its healing power. It has absolutely no medical benefit.

With the apparatus is a booklet on its use. It includes 11 pages of testimonials from satisfied customers, plus instructions of how to treat 129 widely diverse medical conditions, including arthritis, bed-wetting, bust development, cholera, dandruff, epilepsy, hysteria, lock jaw, paralysis, rickets, varicose veins, and wrinkles. A truly amazing device.

During the 1940s and 1950s, makers of violet ray devices were subjected to numerous lawsuits and multiple actions by the US government; including recalls, seizures, forfeitures, and orders to have them destroyed. This interesting object was donated to the collection by Ray Larkin in 2008.