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Saturday, October 08, 2016


Galvanic Batteries

This is getting away from Salisbury history a bit, but I have always found these batteries fascinating. The Boyd’s battery on the left was patented on Jan. 17, 1878, and is the more desirable of the two. TheRichardson battery followed close behind, obtaining a patent on Feb. 8, 1880. Richardson also patented his in Canada on Feb. 9, 1891.

It was common practice in the 19th century to find all kinds of medical devices touting their miracle cures. Tonics that promised to cure anything from the gout to a toothache were to be found usually with the traveling show that left that night, having cured no one. A galvanic battery was a disc to be worn around the neck and was supposed to have beneficial effects on the blood and any ailments associated with it. Even today, they are still selling bracelets of some combination of metals that are supposed to cure everything from arthritis to dropsy. Do they work? Who knows.

The Boyd’s battery is a ring of gilt brass and encircles and binds 12 small varicolored metal rounds which in turn surround a 6-scalloped 18mm copper centerpiece. The centerpiece has a gilt brass center plug. The “battery” contains 15 separate metal pieces securely adhering to each other. Along with gilt brass, there were German silver and copper plugs plus assorted other metals to round out the battery.

J. C. Boyd sold the “battery” to agents around the country for 50 cents, according to his contemporary advertising. Retail price was probably about $1. Supposedly the battery’s electric current purified the blood when it was worn around the neck. Since there are open spaces between the twelve small rounds, a loop wasn’t necessary, but, as you can see, someone put a loop on each of these to hang around the neck. They could easily be removed. Though many of these pieces must have been made, they seemed not to have survived in any quantity. They are quite scarce today.

While the Boyd’s battery is about the size of a half dollar, the Richardson battery is a full 38mm, the same size as a silver dollar. The copper, nickel alloy and lead beads are enclosed in a brass and tin circular frame with a heart shaped center.

Whether any of these devices ever worked is pure conjecture. It probably had a lot to do with a person’s own power of positive thinking and a desperate attempt to feel better. Maybe I should have worn one in 2011 and maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through so much.


Anonymous said...

What is really fascinating , we have had this technology for over a 120 years . You go George. Wayne

Anonymous said...

very interesting. thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Actually for thousands of years.Archeologists have found batteries during excavations in ancient Egypt.Everything seems to go in a circle,where everything repeats itself and all things old become new again.