Powell’s Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness

In 1905, Dr. Guy Clifford Powell, of Peoria, Illinois invented and marketed a device he called the “Electro-Vibratory Cure for Deafness.”

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The apparatus apparently cured a patient of deafness by pumping air through the ears via cotton-covered electrodes soaked in salt water. After pumping in air, a jolt of electricity generated by the solenoid coils is sent to the patient’s head. Two “Electro-Magneto Storage Cells” batteries were placed inside the top cover.

The Lindian Collection of Medical Devices has some incredible close-up photos of the device’s structures and an overview of the instruction manual.

The Electro-Vibratory apparatus was initially priced at $100 and promoted through mail-order marketing. Powell advertised himself as an “International Specialist,” even printing his image alongside his adverts for the device. Prospective clients would write in, request a trial, and the device would be sent to them once payment was received. Apparently as Powell risked being exposed as a fraud, he offered a hefty discount for clients—they only had to pay $15!

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After Powell died, his company was carried on by “Dr. L.C. Grains Company,” which operated out of Chicago instead of Peoria. The company added the Electro-Vibratory apparatus to its repository of deaf cures, including the “Read Clover Extract” and the “Curo Grains of Life.” However, all the advertising booklets, leaflets, and general paraphernalia issued by the L.C. Grains Company were identical to that of Powell’s—save for the portrait of the “Doctor!”

Testimonials and advertising ephemera from the Powell Company.

Testimonials and advertising ephemera from the Powell Company.

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