Antique Vibrator Museum Aims To Please

This week I took a historical romp into the wild and wonderful world of vibrators. Good Vibrations in San Francisco kicked open its doors on Thursday for the grand opening of the Antique Vibrator Museum. (Regular readers of COED might note that I was so excited to attend this event that I showed up a week early.) The exhibit covers the “weird and wonderful” world of vibrators from the 1800’s to modern day. Very informative indeed: the electric vibrator had its inception in 1869 with the invention of a steam-powered massager patented by an American doctor. The invention proceeded the electric vacuum, iron, and frying pan by nearly a decade.

Far from sexy, vibrators pretty much resembled power tools when they were first introduced. Doesn’t this device look like it could strip the paint off a car?

Vibrators were first marketed as cures for “hysteria.” Even as far back as 4th Century B.C., “double clicking the mouse” was recommended as a hysteria cure. (Also referred to as “womb disease.”)

Imagine a woman in the 1800’s having her doctor prescribe this hand-cranked apparatus to cure her hysteria. Looks like it could also assist in making a delicious cake frosting. It wasn’t until 1952 that hysteria was no longer considered a medical disease.

Hysterical: With a nod-and-a-wink, vibrators were originally marketed as “health and beauty” devices or “head massagers.” Those in-the-know interpreted their true purpose. At the 1900 Paris Expo, a dozen vibrators were first on display as sexual devices. Oh, those crazy French!

Professional baseball players were even used for the packaging of vibrators. The instructions below state that a vibrator helps relieve muscular fatigue. Muscular fatigue, indeed! And what’s that baseball player really doing with his vibrator behind closed doors?

In the 30’s and 40’s, vibrators became art deco in design. Check out the Niagara: an entire suitcase devoted to a woman’s vibrator needs. Not only does it look like it would give a woman an orgasm, but it also seems that it could radio Tokyo.

Check out the Antique Vibrator Museum at Good Vibrations on Polk Street in San Francisco. You just might fall in love with the Handy Vibrating Disc–part vibrator, part frisbee.


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