Technology has rapidly evolved over the last 150 years. The people utilizing it? Not so much.
Even in the early 20th century, people were turning to technology for self-pleasure and inventors were more than happily to tap into the sex toy market. The issue was that advertising a new product as a masturbation tool was a huge no-no. Take the vibrator, which sold itself as a “massaging medical tool” when personal devices started to emerge into the market. Below are three patents from the 1900s for such devices:
Yes, that’s a glove hand.
Inventor Henry Madison Sciple’s description of the first vibrator seen above tells you everything about the prescribed use of the time: “For the treatment of various nervous and other disorders by transmitting to the body of the patient a rapid vibratory movement generated by the implement said vibratory movement being produced by the rapid rotation of’a shaft carrying at one end an eccentric disk.” The medical thinking traces back to doctor Joseph Mortimer Granville first vibrator from 1880, used to treat women suffering from hysteria (a scientific breakthrough recently chronicled in the 2011 film Hysteria). Seen below, Granville’s model was a bit clunkier.
It was only in 1966 did we see “Cordless Electric Vibrator for Use on the Human Body,” the recognizable device of today.
Unsurprisingly, the electric vibrator was actually on the market in another form for nearly 25 years before the ’66 device. Referenced in its patent, the below “flashlight” became a huge inspiration. Because that’s definitely a flashlight. Only used for a flashlight. Definitely not anything else.
Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on New York Magazine’s Vulture, Film.com, Hollywood.com, MTV, and he is the host of the pop culture podcast Operation Kino. He continues to love Groundhog Day.