Minnetrista Blogs

The Machine That Cures All Illnesses

If only it was that simple. According to the instruction book for a piece of medical equipment in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection, “All human ailments, with the exception of highly infectious and contagious diseases, are traceable to one cause: Imperfect circulation and impoverished blood.” And what, you say, cured imperfect circulation and impoverished blood and the resulting ailments? It was the Marvel Violet Ray machine. Minnetrista’s machine was  manufactured by Eastern Laboratories in New York City, but several other companies also produced them.

Our Marvel Violet Ray machine belonged to the Charles Dillon family. Mr. Dillon was an engineer employed at Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. He purchased the machine on December 14, 1924, at Hooks Drug Store for $12.50. The machine was donated to Minnetrista by Mr. Dillon’s daughter, Dorothy Bradbury. She recalled that the machine was used frequently by the family. Although Mrs. Bradbury was unsure exactly what ailments the machine supposedly treated, she does recall that when it was rubbed over the skin, it produced a blue glow.

According to the instruction booklet, the violet ray emitted a new phase of electricity and was entirely safe. It could be applied to any part of the body, even in “orifices” without causing pain, muscle spasms, or, in fact, any “disagreeable sensation of any kind.” It stimulated every function of the body, and it increased vigor and vitality. Ailments that the violet ray cured included: hardening of the arteries, asthma, ulcers, diabetes, gray hair, rheumatism, mumps, cataracts, bunions, tonsillitis, deafness, female troubles, and bronchitis. The list goes on and on. The machine also, according to the hype, increased cheerfulness and the capacity for work.

Since this piece of equipment was apparently such a miracle worker, why don’t we still use it? Well, it’s because the violet ray machine didn’t produce miracles, and it wasn’t safe to use. By the 1940s, makers of violet ray devices were the subjects of numerous lawsuits. Machines were recalled or seized, and companies were ordered to destroy remaining stock. One of the last manufacturers of violet ray machines was Master Appliances, Inc. of Marion, Indiana. While it is now illegal to manufacture these machines in the United States, several foreign companies still make them.

Minnetrista has a number of other medical instruments in the Heritage Collection. Most of them are the regular, everyday instruments that we see on any visit to the doctor. An exception, however, is the Lebenswecker, a real instrument of torture that was purported to cure most of the same illnesses that the Marvel Violet Ray cured. You can read more about it here.