Davis & Kidder's Patent Magneto-Electric Machine

Davis & Kidder's Patent Magneto-Electric Machine

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Ari Davis (ca. 1811-1855) was a skilled American craftsman who received two patents in 1854. One (#10,788 of April 18) described a machine for producing wooden boxes with metal-reinforced dovetail corners. The other (#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 is in a wood box with brass corners and ivory handle. The brass frame is stamped “PATENTED... 1854” and “MANUFACTURED BY W. H. BURNAP, LOWELL, MASS.” The paper label is marked “DAVIS & KIDDER’S / PATENT MAGNETO-ELECTRIC MACHINE / FOR NERVOUS DISEASES” and “PATENTED AUG. 1, 1854” with endorsements from Silliman (at left) and Paige (at right). The text at bottom reads “Manufactured and sold by W. H. BURNAP, Sole Proprietor, Lowell, Mass., whose signature is attached to all genuine / Machines. All infringements will be prosecuted” (at bottom).
Currently not on view
Object Name
electrotherapeutic apparatus
Other Terms
date made
W. H. Burnap
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, Lowell
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 4 1/2 in x 11 1/4 in x 4 1/2 in; 11.43 cm x 28.575 cm x 11.43 cm
ID Number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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