Davis & Kidder's Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases

Davis & Kidder's Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases

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Ari Davis (ca. 1811-1855) was a skilled American craftsman who received two patents in 1854. #10,788 (of April 18) described a machine for producing wooden boxes with metal-reinforced dovetail corners. #11,415 (of August 1) described a magneto-electric machine. While this second patent was still in process, Davis sold the rights to both patents to Walter Kidder, a physician in Lowell, Massachusetts, allegedly for $4000. Advertisements for DAVIS’ (later DAVIS & KIDDER’S) PATENT MAGNETO-ELECTRIC MACHINE, FOR NERVOUS DISEASES were soon to be seen, with testimonials from three Americans involved with science: Benjamin Silliman at Yale College, Charles G. Page in Washington, D.C., and James R. Chilton, an instrument dealer in New York City. These machines were “MANUFACTURED BY W. KIDDER, Sole Proprietor, whose signature is attached to all genuine Machines.” By 1857, the business was in the hands of William H. Burnap (b. 1825), also of Lowell. By 1865, Burnap was working in New York City, and advertising as “Manufacturer of Davis & Kidder’s Electric Machines.”
This example has a wood box with brass corners and ivory handle. The paper label is marked “DAVIS & KIDDER’S / PATENT MAGNETO-ELECTRIC MACHINE / FOR NERVOUS DISEASES” with testimonials from Silliman (at left) and Paige (at right). The text at bottom reads “Manufactured and sold by W. H. BURNAP Sole Proprietor 259 West 27th St., New York, whose signature is attached to all genuine / Machines. All infringements upon his Patent will be prosecuted.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
Electrotherapeutic Apparatus
Date made
c. 1854
date made
W. H. Burnap
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
cloth (overall material)
metal (handles(2) material)
metal (overall material)
string (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 11.1 cm x 14.8 cm x 11.2 cm; 4 3/8 in x 5 13/16 in x 4 13/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
G.E. Damon Collection
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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