'Metallic Tractors', print, by James Gillray, London, England, 1801

1801 in London
Hannah Humphrey
James Gillray

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Hand coloured caricature aquatint and etching `Metallic Tractors'. J. Gillray, invt & fect, Published by H
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Hand coloured caricature aquatint and etching `Metallic Tractors'. J. Gillray, invt & fect, Published by H Humphrey, London Nov. 1801, 27 St. James St.. 25x32cm.

‘Metallic Tractors’ is a caricature of a treatment better known as Perkins Tractors, named after its inventor, Elisha Perkins (1741-1799), an American physician. Two tapered rods made of different metals – normally brass and silver – were passed over the body and, it was claimed, drew out disease using electricity. The tractors were said to be charged from the natural electricity present in the user’s body. Perkins patented his invention in 1796.

Despite claims that Perkin’s invention cured over five thousand people in England of various complaints, the treatment was widely discredited and was labelled by many as ‘quackery’.

This print was etched by James Gillray (1757-1815), a British caricaturist.

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Object Number:
aquatint, etching, hand coloured engraving and paper
overall (mounted, lying flat): 10 mm x 384 mm x 292 mm, 1.261 kg
overall (in window mount): 290 mm x 385 mm
  • visual and verbal communication
  • visual and verbal communication
Sotheby and Company

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