‘Barker Universal’ electric massage apparatus, United States, 1913-1914

Made:
1913-1914 in United States

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

"Barker Universal" electric massage apparatus, hand held, cast aluminium body, 5 interchangeable heads, in leatherette case, supplied by James Barker, London, made in United States, 1913-1914. (Owner was donor's mother. Donor remembers her using it before 1914.)

The ‘Barker Universal’ is a handheld electric massage apparatus. Like many early massaging devices, it was used for a range of physical and emotional complaints. Electromechanical vibrators such as this became consumer products in the second half of the 1800s. Such devices originally treated women diagnosed as “hysterical”. They were initially only used in doctors’ surgeries. The sexual use of such machines was not overtly publicised. However, it was a major part of their appeal.

This example is made of aluminium. It comes with five interchangeable heads. It was probably originally ordered for home use via a mail order company. The international nature of this product indicates its wide appeal. It was made in the US, supplied by James Barker of London, and patented worldwide in the early 1900s.

Details

Category:
Therapeutics
Object Number:
1985-653
Materials:
body, aluminium and case, leatherette
type:
massager
credit:
MacEwan, N.