Doctors first developed vibrators in the 1800s to treat “hysteria” in their female patients. Back in the day, “hysteria” was kind of a catch-all term that described any “crazy” traits a woman might be exhibiting. The symptoms could range from insomnia to irritability to “nerves.”
Treating hysteria involved having a doctor induce a “hysterical paroxysm” in his patient. In other words, the doctor would induce an orgasm in his female patient using his hands, like Dr. Swift is doing below.
But for a doctor who saw multiple patients per day, the strain on his hands and wrists could be a bit much. And that’s where the vibrator came in. A mechanical device could get the job done faster, and eventually vibrators were made available for home use. While many were advertised as beauty aides or health cures, the need for them as treatment for “hysteria” was still abundant.
Today, vibrators come in all shapes and sizes — but a century ago, you had to contend with hulking machinery that was anything but discreet. However, as we all know, sex sells…and you can’t have sales without advertising your product. Some of the ads for these vintage vibes are funny, others are weird, but they’re all a bit crazy. Here is the cream of the crop.
1. The First Bathtub Vibe?
Apparently no one told the makers of this old-timey vibrator that water is an excellent conductor.
While there aren’t any statistics out there that tell us how many women were electrocuted while pleasuring themselves in the tub in the days before waterproof vibes, we hope there weren’t many. That system is HUGE, and it must have generated a lot of juice.
Honestly, who thought this was a good idea?
2. The Vibe That Cures Deafness
When I think about Hamilton Beach, vibrators are SO not the first appliances that comes to mind. But back in the day, Hamilton Beach was better known for vibes than for blenders.
This ad is an great example of medical quackery, especially when you get to the part about how a good vibrator can cure everything from stomach upsets to deafness.
Am I the only one who feels the urge to slap a “FAIL” underneath the old woman who’s using the vibrator on her head?
3. The 11th Finger
It’s a massager for your…gums?
Suuuuure it is. For “your personal use.”
There’s something extra creepy about the lifelike appearance of the finger attached to the unit. They recommend it as a “useful gift.” Because nothing says nothing says “I care” like a disembodied vibrating finger.
The 30-day money back guarantee is nice. Hopefully they don’t use the returned ones to create refurbished models. That would be gross.
4. Vibrators for Women Who Don’t Like Vibrators?
“If you ‘don’t care for such things’ buy one for your wife or sister. Maybe she’ll get a chance to use it — when you’re not home.” Oh, Manhattan Electrical Supply Co., you’re so subtle with your innuendo, it’s like you’re hitting us over the head.
5. Turn of the Century Pony Play
While this is being marketed as an exercise machine and not a vibrator, you’ll be forced to see this product in a new light once you learn that horse riding’s “inspiriting action” was actually a common prescription for treating hysteria. We'll just pretend we don't see that "protrusion" coming up from the saddle in the picture and try not to make comparisons with today's Sybian.
6. The Greatest Medical Discovery Ever Known
Alright, it’s official. We need more women in diaphanous gowns trying to sell us vibrators. Though it would be nice if they could pick a name and stick with it. Which is it, Dr. Butler: a machine, or a manipulator?
7. Living La Vida Loca
This “home comfort” has some dubious sales copy. It claims to be “essentially a woman’s vibrator,” because it has no parts to "get out of order." You don't want to confuse women with too many parts as the "good of the family" depends upon their being able to use this product. Just make sure you don’t try and buy one on “Syracuse Day”, because the store will be closing early, apparently.
9. The Vibe That Cures Zombies!
Nine out of every ten people are only half alive?
Are they…are they zombies? Does this vibrator cure zombies?
In all seriousness though, this ad does the best job of explaining how you feel after an orgasm…even if it is a bit hyperbolic. I still wouldn’t want that beast of a contraption anywhere near me, though.
We can’t help but wonder why today’s vibrator makers have abandoned informing us of the vibrator’s ability to cure deafness or arthritis, but we [italic
are] thankful design has advanced beyond the giant box-of-death perched on the side of the bathtub.
While they seem quaint and quacky, these outdated ads are a reminder of the golden age of vibrators. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore…and that’s a very good thing.