• PHOTO ESSAY: Storefront Displays

    Two months ago, I was at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., researching through copies of The Hearing Dealer, a trade magazine for dealers and sellers of hearing aids during the 1950s. The magazine is an excellent historical source for examining how dealers went around cultural and legal restrictions for selling hearing aids to… Continue Reading

  • The Drouet Institute’s Tribe of Petty Rat-Swindlers

    Sometime in the early 1880s, a man by the name of J.H. Nicholson, who called himself an “aural specialist,” introduced himself to a French doctor by the name of Drouet. Hospitalized for tuberculosis aggravated by alcohol, the doctor was once an obscure general practitioner operating in the tough Belleville district in Paris. It appeared that… Continue Reading

  • REVIEW: Medical Monopoly

    BOOK REVIEW Joseph M. Gabriel, Medical Monopoly: Intellectual Property Rights and the Origins of the Modern Pharmaceutical Industry (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 2014). In the 1980s, historians began to refer to the “medical marketplace” as a model for analyzing the experiences of health and illness. Adopting a normative understanding of the… Continue Reading

  • The Otophone

    In the 1870s, E.B. Meyrowitz, an optician in New York City, established a surgical instrument company. By 1887, the company began manufacturing acoustic aids for the deaf, the most prominent of which was the Otophone*. The device was invented by James A. Maloney, who filed for a patent the same year, for a hearing aid… Continue Reading

  • Wilson’s Common Sense Ear Drums

    George H. Wilson (1866-1949) of Louisville, Kentucky, received a patent (U.S. #476,853) for his “rimless [and] self-ventilating” artificial eardrum in 1892. Often referred as “wireless phones for the ears,” the device was made of rubber, designed to be simple in construction and “so shaped that it can be quickly and readily removed and replaced without… Continue Reading