Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College Archives and Special Collections


@ElizaBTweetin: April 15-22 – Zapped!

Posted on April 20, 2013

EBWheaton diary, April 15-20, 1872

Eliza B. Wheaton's diary, April 15-20, 1872.

Over the last few weeks, Eliza Wheaton’s exhaustion has increased dramatically. Training a new maid; hiring a new man to work the farm; Mrs. Beane’s continued feebleness; weather ranging from sleet to 78˚; churning and working nineteen pounds of butter; potential poisoning from naptha inhalation; sewing a new dress — all contributed to Eliza’s feeling “tired” and “worn”.

Mrs. Wheaton, a long-time practitioner of homeopathy, was a regular patient of Dr. Benjamin M. Round(and later of his son Dr. Arthur).

Dr B Round Receipt, Apr. 1872

Dr. Benjamin Round, Receipt, Apr. 1872.

In addition to caring for Eliza, Dr. Round saw her niece Mary Chapin, Mrs. Beane, and her servants. Mrs. Wheaton also paid for the medial care of the family of her business manager and relative, George Wild. Dr. Round was, in the 1850s, the only physician in Norton, which must have kept him extremely busy.


Ramsden Electrifying Machine

Ramsden Electrifying Machine, Fort William Museum, Thunder Bay, Ontario

However, Dr. Round’s homeopathic cures were apparently insufficient for Mrs. Wheaton’s ills.  In April of 1872, she began a series of visits to Dr. Garratt in Boston for “electrical treatments”.  It is unfortunate that she neither provides the good doctor’s first name, nor any additional information regarding these visits in her diaries, cashbook, or receipts, for by this time a bewildering array of “medical treatments” had been developed.

Although electricity had been known for a century, inventors  still unsure of how to use it, tried it as a medical treatment.  Advertisements claimed that pain, hysteria, insomnia and many other ills in both women and men, could be cured using everything from static, to pulses, to vibrators, to sparks.  The Ramsden Electrifying Machine served multiple purposes, as did the Improved Davis & Kidder Magneto-Electric Machine.

Lacking clarifying clues, we leave it to you, dear reader, to decide what treatment might have appealed to Eliza! Images of “medical” electrical equipment may be found at Spark Museum, and further history of the development of treatments is provided at Singing the Body Electric. We offer just a few images of electrical treatment here.

Swift Vibrator

The Swift Vibrator Massage

Victor Vibrator Massage

Victor Vibrator Massage











Friction Spark Machine

Friction Spark Machine

Franklinizatsiya Machine

Franklinizatsiya Spark Machine











Electric Belt

Electric Belt

Electric Bath

Electric Bath.

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