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Magnetic Healing Batteries

Quack Medical Device or a True Cure?


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The 1870s and 1880s saw a new medical device that promised wonderful cures for almost anything that ailed you. This was just before the electrical revolution that began in the 1880s to 1890s when the new "wonder product" electricity was being applied to everything.

The most famous of the medical batteries was the Boyds Battery. They are fairly easy to find and they polish up nicely. They were made with different metals that promised to create a healing electrical current when pressed against your skin. The galvanic properties were released by the different metals reacting to the moisture in your skin. Some people claimed that they tingled as they worked to draw out the bad energies from your body and replace them with good energy.

Boyds Battery came out in 1878 and was "improved" in 1879. He writes in his book "Boyds Battery", that two of his employees stole his idea and created the Sagendorph Battery which was a direct knockoff of Boyd's design. Boyd claimed that their battery was just a combination of metals that did not do anything as opposed to his battery that was a combination of metals that did cure ills.

Whatever the truth, others followed and produced their own batteries - Richardson and Downing were two that I have found. There were also magnetic belts, shoe inserts, and other products that used either magnetism or batteries to provide some relief to your ills.

An interesting 1870s CDV photograph and advertisement for a doctor who did magnetic healing.

Note the information warning against the Imitators

The original Boyds Battery. Feel its energy! Only an inch and a quarter in diameter.
The Improved version of 1879

Sagendorph even claimed that his battery was the first and that Boyd copied him. The letter and clear text of the letter were kindly brought to my attention and supplied by William Simms.

G. A. Sagendorph,
Sagendorphs Minature Medical Galvanic Battery
Cincinnati, Ohio, May 22nd , 1882

Mr. AE Tilden - Dear Sir, You will observe I have removed to Cincinnati and have also reduced my price. I am determined that the publick shall be induced to try my goods & when they do they will buy them I know from my own experience what they are and are far superior to any in market should be pleased to receive an order from you I give my agents the choice to retail at 25 or 50 cents each Most of them sell at 50 cents they are cheap enough at that. And when I have an agent I dont sell to any one in his vicinity
Respt Yours
Geo A. Sagendorph
57. West Third street

An identical medallion was marketed (even duplicating the advertising copy) under the name Boyd's Battery by Boyd's Galvanic Battery Co., though there is dispute as to which was the original design: in testimony before the New York Supreme Court, Richard H. Elias reported that Ellis H. Elias had been in business with George Sagendorph, and continued selling the Sagendorph Battery under J.C. Boyd's name and, Boyd, in the same trial, testified that he was unaware who had invented the medallion, and that the Galvanic battery business had been purchased and operated by Ellis H. Elias on his behalf, all contrary to claims made in later advertising that Sagendorph had stolen the medallion and design from Boyd. Check out this site for more information about the different makers https://hatch.kookscience.com/wiki/Category:Medical_Medallions

The original box that the Downings Battery came in.
The Downings Improved Battery

The 1881 Richardson's Battery. It was 1.5 inches in diameter.

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