A sampling of vintage medical pieces, clockwise from top left:
Eye illustration for an optical trade sign (lot no. 587); an appendix to Smith’s American manikin for schools and physicians by Dr. Elias D. Smith, Chicago, circa 1890 (lot no. 110); anatomical models (lot nos. 670 and 677); homeopathic remedies and pharmaceutical bottles (lot no. 1615).
When it was released in 1939, this General Electric television fetched a hefty $250 (equivalent to $4,000 today). Lot no. 275
This set of cable samples signed Siemens Bros. & Co., London, was used to show the first cables laid under the Atlantic. Lot no. 799
The Marconi two-valve long-range radio receiver (circa 1920) preceded the “Ready for Television” radios made in 1939 and ’40, which could be connected to television sets like the HM-171 (pictured top) to receive audio.
Like a cabinet of wonders in miniature, the street-level window of E. Buk Antiques only gave a hint of the treasures inside. Curious passerby and regular customers wanting to visit the shop at 151 Spring Street in SoHo, New York, would buzz the second floor and head up the narrow staircase. There, objects of science and technology spanning two centuries were displayed in glass cabinets or stacked high to the ceiling: a rare Henry Fitz telescope circa 1850, a set of original transatlantic cable samples, a hand-cranked sewing machine, an early Graflex camera. As a whole, the pieces traced the advancement of communication through telegraphy, telephone, radio and television, as well as the industrialization of the textile industries and the development of photography and motion pictures.
A model for the whimsically named Huffman & Huff pneumo-electric baths, patented for the Hathaway Electric Medical Apparatus in 1876. Lot no. 300
For many millennia, inventors have tried to develop a perpetual motion machine. French architect Villard de Honnecourt sketched a model in the 13th-century – and Leonardo da Vinci tinkered with the same idea in the 1400s, ultimately abandoning the project. This 40-inch carved wood model (circa 1900-1905) is similar to what he worked on. Lot no. 1266
Possibly a fire fighting or oil rig apparatus, this 22-inch iron extension ladder is stamped “Built by John A. Lee, Chatanooga.” Lot no. 533
Eadweard Muybridge zoetrope strips & Thomas Eakins photographs
In 1872, a wealthy racehorse breeder commissioned Muybridge to take instantaneous photographs of one of his horses to determine if all four of the animal’s legs were touching the ground at a given time. Using 12 cameras, Muybridge successfully captured a series of quick, consecutive images – which are now considered to be the precursor to motion pictures. In 1880, Muybridge began to create simplified silhouettes of his photographs to use in a zoetrope. The series of 12 strips was published in 1882 under the title “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion.” This rare collection includes four mounted 4 x 5 photographs of Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion prints, bearing Eakins’ signature.
A round-up of our finest quack medical pieces. Clockwise, from top:
RDK stands for Radio Disease Killer. This is the deluxe version, manufactured by the RDK Corporation of America, Brooklyn, circa 1930. Lot no. 770
A Pelton & Crane regulating unit from Detroit, Michigan (with dial detail). Lot no. 1032
The piece at left is a junior model of the famous Terpezone germicidal air conditioner. Advertisements of the day claimed it offered revitalizing “air of the Alps” and supposedly treated anemia and low blood pressure.
At right, a medical device made by Henry E. Stammers of New York. Lot no. 1103
Various quack medical instruments.
These shock therapy devices were an early attempt to introduce electricity into medical healing. Travelling doctors (or, perhaps, snake oil salesmen) would ask brave volunteers to wet the soles of their feet and crank the machine (pictured at left) to a low voltage. Today, the method is still used to treat flukes and parasites. Lot no. 773
Invented in France in 1877, the praxinoscope used a strip of pictures placed around the inner surface of a spinning cylinder. It improved on the zoetrope by replacing narrow viewing slits with an inner circle of mirrors, positioned so that the reflections of the pictures appeared more or less stationary as the wheel turned. Someone looking in the mirrors would see a rapid succession of images producing the illusion of motion, with a brighter and less distorted picture than the zoetrope offered. Lot no. 901
Yesterday’s mystery box (pictured above and below) was an important component in Depression-era pigeon racing. The numbered compartments were used to store tags for the competing birds. When a pigeon returned to its owner or “driver” during a race, the tag was taken off its leg, inserted into one of the box compartments and a lever was switched on to record its official time. Scores were tallied among the competing owners/drivers to determine the winner. No winging it with these guys! Lot no. 876