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Lock, Stock, and History

Dr. Scotts Electric Hairbrush and Cure-alls,

The invention of electricity spawned a whole new industry for quack medical devices during the late 19th century.  One such quack doctor was Dr. George A. Scott, an Englishman who moved to the United States during the 1870’s.  From the 1870’s to the turn of the century Dr. Scott made a wide variety of magnetic devices claimed to cure a wide variety of ailments. While not technically electrical he marketed and advertised his products as “electric” to make them sound more complicated and futuristic.

The first was the electric hairbrush, patented in 1872, it was basically a hairbrush with a handle that contained magnets.  Apperently one would just use the hairbrush as one would use a hairbrush and it would cure baldness, headache, constipation, malarial lameness, rheumatism, diseases of the blood, and paralysis.  Dr. Scott, a very sly salesman, printed instructions emphasizing that his brush should only be used by one person, not a family, “In no case should more than one person use the brush. If always used by the same person it retains its full curative power.” According to Dr. Scott each of his products brought a balance of “orons” to the body, would become specifically tuned to each person.

By the later 1880’s Dr. Scott patented and produced even more products.  In 1883 he came out with a line of men’s belts and ladies corsets which were claimed to cure rheumatism, constipation, hemorrhoids, consumption, epilepsy, diseases of the spine, and many more ailments.  Over his career he patented 18 products, which included magnetic curlers, shoe insoles, a toothbrush, a “fleshbrush’, and magnetic buttons.  Today of course we know that the curative powers of these products are high questionable. 

Dr. Scott’s last product was an improved electric corset in 1889.  Eventually he was run out of business not because he was a quack or because he was shut down by the government, but because his competitors were able to make cheap copies of his devices.