Good Vibrations: Fleshing Out the Antique Vibrator Museum

Posted by - September 1, 2014 | Category: Peculiarities

Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California

“The electric vibrator preceded the electric vacuum cleaner by some nine years, the electric iron by ten, and the electric frying pan by more than a decade, possibly indicative of consumer priorities.”

— plaque at Antique Vibrator Musuem

 Good-Vibrations-Antique-Vibrator-Museum-sign-San-Francisco-California.jpg

The vibrator didn’t always have a purely sexual connotation. Sexist maybe, but not sexual. The vibrator was originally marketed as a cure for female “hysteria” and went by such names as heat massager, personal masseur, blood circulator, and my personal favourite – the magic wand.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California -- museum room

The term hysteria has taken on a different connotation today, but back in days of old it referred to a variety of ailments blamed on a woman’s plumbing. It’s from the Greek hystera which means uterus.

Presumably that’s why women undergo a hysterectomy and not a uterectomy.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California -- Kacaura's Pulsocon Blood Circulator

Female Hysteria

In her book The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology), Rachel Maines has the following to say about “female hysteria.”

“Women considered to be suffering from it exhibited a wide array of symptoms, including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and ‘a tendency to cause trouble’”

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California -- vintage vibrator attachments

Hippocrates is credited with coining the term hysteria, and while he saw what was believed to be a legitimate disease, doctors who followed him saw a business opportunity.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vintage Vibrator ad -- The Veedee Vibrator

Hence the prescription of “vaginal massage” for women suffering from “disease of the mid-quarters.”

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California -- Dr. Swift ad magic power of of the fine gentle massage

Doctors usually carried out the procedure in their office, and when an extra hand was needed (there were a LOT of repeat customers), the patient was referred to a midwife.

Vibrator Agents and Salesmen Wanted Vintage Ad -- Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

Since manual manipulation of the clitoris proved more tiring than anticipated, doctors searched for ways to expedite the process. Frankly, a lot of docs suffered hand cramps.

1906 Detwiller Pneumatic Vibrator -- Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

In the 1860s an American named Dr. George Taylor patented the world’s first steam-powered, coal-fired vibrator. He named it The Manipulator.

1902 Hamilton Beach Vibrator -- Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

A couple of decades later in England, a physician by the name of Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the world’s first electric vibrator. (He’s the chap portrayed by Hugh Dancy in the movie Hysteria featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal.)

Vintage dual-head vibrator -- Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California

Over the years many companies altered and refined the electric vibrator, but by the 1920s when they started appearing in porn films, the devices fell out of favour with the public, ads disappeared from newspapers and magazines, and the vibrator went underground.

1914 Arnold Massage Vibrator -- Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

But it wasn’t until 1980 that Hysteria was officially removed from the list of treatable diseases.

1928 Polar Cub Electric Vibrator, Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

The Antique Vibrator Museum is an amusing (and titillating!) look into the history of the vibrator.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California -- Vidrio vibrator

Rolex 3 minute massager, Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California

Travelling salesman's vintage vibrator in a suitcase

Handy Hannah personal massager magic vibrating disc

Infra-red heat massager, Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

If you can’t make it to San Francisco, there’s also a Vintage Vibrator Museum, run by Babeland – a sex-toy shop in Seattle, Washington.

Vibra-King Actavator Bakelite Massager Model FF 1930s vintage vibrator

The Antique Vibrator Museum also showcases a healthy collection of vibrator art.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum -- vibrator art

Some of which presumably will never see use.

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum -- vibrator art with beads

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum -- vibrator art, golden with bows and beads

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum -- vibrator and dildo art display case

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum -- vibrator and dildo art

Vintage vibrators and dildos Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

None of these vibrators are available for sale, but there are plenty to choose from in the Good Vibrations shop.

Decorated vibrators at Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum

The Antique Vibrator Museum

Address: 1620 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA

Website: www.antiquevibratormuseum.com

Phone: (415) 345-0400

Opening Hours: 12:30pm to 6:30pm daily (Thursdays until 8:30pm)

Admission: free of charge

Good Vibrations, Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco, California-365

What’s your take? Would you visit the Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum?

Like this post? Check out my experience at a Ping Pong Show in Pattaya, Thailand for more reading.

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16 comments - add one
  1. I learned a little about this “treatment for hysteria” at the sex museum in NYC! But this is WAY better, a) because it’s exclusively vibrators and b) because I just happen to be in San Francisco RIGHT NOW! My plans for the day may have just changed… 😉 Thanks for the good laugh and history lesson 🙂

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