Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is addressed to Pulvermacher Institute, 10 Vulcan House, 56 Ludgate Hill, London E.C., England. The 1d red ‘Kangaroo on Map of Australia’ is postmarked with a blue ( )/ 21 SEP 14/ QUEENSLAND postmark, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The role of electricity in medical therapy has been perceived in a variety of ways since the time of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), whose concept of ‘animal magnetism’ was finally discredited by a scientific commission of the French government. With the emergence of electricity as the near magical factotum of the 1880’s, popular interest in the subject was renewed. Henry Frith , in his Coil and Current (London: Ward Lock, 1896) described electricity as follows: “…. all pervading… the soul of the World, the basis of life. Electricity can do anything, and in time not far distant we shall be able to perform miracles with it”. The public turned to electricity as a cure-all. From the advertising ephemera of the period we see that the entrepreneur was not slow to respond. The word ‘electricity’ became the vogue-word of medical advertising, and such words as ‘galvano-magnetic’ and ‘magneto-electric’ came into general use. One such medical advertisement extolling an electropathic belt is seen in Figure 2.

Additional advertising for electricity included the following apparatus: Electromagnetic socks; Fraser’s Electric Catarrh Cure; Ambrose Wilson’s Magnetic Corset; The London Electric Fabric Co’s Electric Garter; Pringle & Sons’ Galvano-Magnetic Anti Rheumatic Ring; Dobbin’s Electric Soap; The British Medical Institution’s Dry-Cell Body Battery; Handysides Electric Nervine Snuff; The Pall Mall Electric Association’s Galvanic Generator.

Among the founding fathers of the electro-medical cult was J.L. Pulvermacher, whose appliances were on sale in London in the mid 1870s, and he claimed to have been in business in the late 1840s. His advertisements for the products of his galvanic establishment, originally was in Regent Street, but he later moved toLudgate Hill. He printed a testimonial for his Patent Volta Chain Batteries which was signed in 1866 by six physicians, of which three were physicians to Queen Victoria, one was physician to the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and one physician to the Hospital for Consumption at Brompton.

Pulvermacher’s principal product was the Electric Chain Band, with Chain-Batteries and Intensity Batteries. Many of his items were patented, and the British Patent Office shows that he had at least several patents in 1849 and 1852 for medical electrical equipment, and I was able to find one in 1876 which was probably for use of electricity in non-medical conditions, as shown in Figure 3.

Doctors were closely involved with promotion of electric devices: Dr. Porter’s Electric Magnetic Machine; Dr. Carter Moffatt’s Electric Body Belt; Dr. Williams’ Electric Medicated Pads; Dr. Bell’s Self Restorer Belt; and, Dr. Scott’s complete range of electrical aids – toothbrushes, hairbrushes, curlers, insoles, plasters and cigarettes! Pulvermacher’s electric belts were self-applicable for the cure of nervous and chronic diseases, without medicine. He had one publication entitled ‘Galvanic electricity; its pre-eminent power and effects in preserving and restoring health made plain and useful’ in London Galvanic Establishment 1857.

Categories: Health Sciences