The Turn Of The Century Electrotherapy Museum

A Trip Down Memory Lane:
The Turn Of Century Electrotherapy Museum
in 1999 (
and 2001 (

(Note:  There are no links in these pages)



Violet Rays are undoubtably the most popular of the turn of the century
electrotherapy machines. They were manufactured by well over 4 dozen
manufacturers in the United States alone. Each company manufactured
several models, and many (such as Renulife and Bleadon Dun)
manufactured over a dozen.

The machines were sold as one piece "all-in-handle" units, and
as two piece units. Two piece units were generally built to last
longer. (The components were very susceptible to becoming
overheated, and by separating them helped prevent this to
some extent). The basis of these machines are Nikola Tesla's
earliest disruptive discharge coils. They are not the familiar
Tesla Coil one sees while surfing the internet.

Violet Ray machines consist of two parts, an oscillating circuit
and a resonator coil. The oscillating circuit is an electromagnetically
interrupted self-induction coil that is used to charge a condenser to
a high voltage, generally around 1200 volts. This condenser is
discharged through the primary winding of a disruptive discharge
coil. The "disruptive discharge" is conducted to a metal collet
or electrode holder to any one of a number of geissler tubes made to
conform to various body parts. The disruptive discharge coil resonates
at about one half a million hertz at 50,000 Volts. This equates to about
a one inch high frequency spark at full power.

The disruptive discharge coils are referred to in some texts as Tesla Coils
and in other texts as Oudin Resonators. Both terms are correct but
misleading, depending on perspective.

The coil is nothing like a traditional Oudin or Tesla Coil. It is series
wound like an Oudin Resonator, but multi-layer rather than helical.
Tesla does have a patent on this form of disruptive discharge coil.

The machines are still manufactured and sold in the United States, both
as beauty products and as industrial leak detectors. Neither company
gives medical claims to their units.

A brief history of units:

In hospitals high frequency currents were used to treat many diseases and health problems, often experimentally.
As high frequency electricity was a relatively new concept when used therapeutically, physicans generally published their results.
For example, in treating Postobstetric Hemorrhoids:
"Bilinkin treated 6 cases, eight to nineteen applications, 4 were cured...bad results in exceptional cases are in increase in swelling, considerable pain, and some hemorrhage...when this takes place this line of treatment had better be abandoned."
(from Medical Electricity, Röntgen Rays, and Radium, Dr. Sinclair Tousey)

Around 1910 several portable high frequency devices showed up on the electrotherapy market. One such device was manufactured by Remco. It was sold for cauterising small growths and moles, and came with a glass vacuum condenser electrode for treating minor skin conditions at people's homes. It was made very lightweight, and could hang from a normal lamp socket.
("It gives a sufficiently powerful effect for the spark treatment of moles and small epitheliomata and for the vacuum electrode treatment of neuralgia." (Doctor Sinclair Tousey))

Diathermy Machines and various high powered High Frequency coils were generally used to treat most conditions in hospitals and clinics. These devices weighed generally from 50 to 200 pounds, and required motor generators to convert the direct current current into alternating current. These new portable apparatus could be powered by direct or alternating current, and be used for minor treatments.
Many patients required home visits, and these apparatus became very useful for the physician.

Several companies such as AS Aloe, HG Fischer, Campbell, and Frank. S Betz decided to make similar lightweight apparatus that could offer more than just one function. Soon platinum hot cautery tools, cold cautery surgical and coagulation tools, diagnostics lamps, ultra-violet mercury vapor lamps, special high frequency x-ray tubes, and glass vacuum electrodes could all be operated by one unit that was the size of a small suitcase.

With more and more portable apparatus showing up on the market, several companies decided to market these devices to the public for home use. Many people were embarassed to approach doctors about female problems or problems of a sexual nature and resorted to buying "home treatment" apparatus that claimed to fix these problems in the privacy of your own home. (Given a familiar term, "Violet Ray Generators")

Booklets coming with these home devices often had rediculous claims:
(taken from Eastern Laboratories "The Marvel Violet Ray")
Freckles: "Cover the surface with gauze...Use daily for 4-6 minutes with a medium current. Results are apt to be slow, therefore be patient."
Obesity: "...fat will decrease and redistribute."

While many conditions in hospitals were treated with various high frequency currents, often required much more electricity than the Violet Rays offered.
High frequency currents in hospitals were categorised to specific apparatus which provided these specific forms of currents (ie, Oudin Resonators, Tesla Coils, Guilleminot Spirals, d'Arsonval Solenoids, Piffard Hyperstatic Transformers, etc). Much research went into the production of these devices, and each device gives a specific type of electricity for treating specific diseases.

The thought of one device claiming to cure anything did not go over well in the medical profession:
"Violet-Ray Treatment: --This is a term which has been used very carelessly, as there is really no such treatment. It has usually been applied when a vacuum electrode is used, without regard to whether the current was a high-frequency or simply a high voltage one, either being sufficient to cause the violet color to appear in the electrode.
Ultra-Violet Treatments: the ultraviolet ray will not penetrate the thinnest piece of mica or celluloid, then results which have been obtained when using the vacuum electrode are due to the form of current applied, and not so much to the ultra-violet rays, which are given off from the sparks forming outside of the electrode."
(Medical Electricity, Röntgen Rays, and Radium. By Dr. Sinclair Tousey)

Eventually, several cases appeared in front of U.S. Courts over the years concerning the claims given to the Violet Ray machines.
(For example, 2 cases (F.D.C. No. 30801. Sample No. 3858-L)
March/April 1951, against Master Appliances, Inc.)

By the 1930s most (but not all) of the companies manufacturing Violet Rays decided to drop the "cure-all" claims and resort to selling them as beauty products, which they still are today.

As to the actual construction of the machines, they are generally described as "Tesla Coil" circuits. Nikola Tesla designed many coils, and was quite the showman. He was rarely photographed without being surrounded by million volt discharges dozens of feet in length.

The Tesla coil in Violet Rays are primarily of one type: A Disruptive Discharge Coil. Tesla's first high frequency coils looked remarkably similar to Violet Ray coils. Violet Ray "Resonator Coils" are all of essentially the same character and construction - approx. 20 layers of wire, 60 turns on each layer. This wire is as thin as a hair, and only occupies the center of the bobbin. Each layer must be heavily insulated from the next by pieces of waxed or varnished paper to prevent spark-overs and short circuiting.
Different Violet Rays can be ran for longer periods of time than others due to better insulation of the resonator coil to prevent inefficiency and overheating. Overheated coils produce weak sparks, and can eventually burn out. Design characteristics were often the selling point of machines. Two-part machines were made to sell at high costs, because they can run for extended periods of time without needing the frequent "cooling off" periods that the one-piece units require.
The oscillator circuit consists of an electromagnetic interrupter that is used to rapidly charge a condenser to a high voltage and then discharge it through the primary of the disuptive discharge coil.
This electromagnetic interrupter and condensers are essentially the same for all Violet Ray manufacturers.

Vacuum Electrodes:

The one impossible goal for any collector is finding every single glass electrode made for these machines. Shelton Laboratories sold over 63 different electrodes. To complicate matters many manufacturers sold tubes with different vacuums or contents. Standard vacuum electrodes are made of annealed pyrex glass, with the exception of specialty tubes. Tubes made to produce x-rays were generally soda-lime glass, whereas tubes made specifically to transmit ultra-violet light were made of quartz. Because of the rarity of neon, argon, helium, etc. early tubes simply were partially vacuumed. A low pressure vacuum resulted in a violet discharge, whereas a high vacuum would appear more of a white color. Argon filled tubes glow distinctly purple. Neon filled tubes glow red-orange. Different vacuums and different gases conduct the sparks in different ways. Some physicians preferred tubes filled with salt water to conduct the electricity - these tubes were quite powerful, and never burned out. Obviously they did not light up in any way.
Metal electrodes were also used. Cautery electrodes were made with platinum wire sealed into the glass.

Tube shaped "Saturator" Metal electrodes were sold for indirect treatments. The patient firmly grips the metal electrode while the doctor turns the current on. The doctor can hold a glass electrode in his or her hand and draw sparks out of the patient using this method. Alternatively, the doctor may hold the metal electrode and conduct the electric through their own body to a vacuum tube in their other hand to the patient for very mild treatments.

The metal electrodes should be noted as somewhat dangerous. Should there be a mechanical fault with the interrupter contacts, there is a chance that the metal electrode would be charged to 120 volts from the wall circuit.
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Large Unit
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Small Unit
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Jr.
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Proper Way To Hold Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Book
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Small Unit
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Large Unit
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Small Unit w/ Book
.JPG Link: Chas A. Branston Jr.
.JPG Link: Cesco - Chicago Scientific Electric Company Unit w/ instructions
.JPG Link: Cesco - Chicago Scientific Electric Company Close-up
.JPG Link: Cesco - Chicago Scientific Electric Company 2nd view
.JPG Link: Contra-Pole No. 1
.JPG Link: Contra-Pole No. 5
.JPG Link: Contra-Pole No. 1 photo
.JPG Link: Elco Lindstrom view 1
.JPG Link: Elco Lindstrom view 2
.JPG Link: Energex Unit
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Type M
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Spark Gap
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Small Violet Ray
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Type M Black Top
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Logo
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Type M Nameplate
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Type M Interrupter
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Closeup Assembly
.JPG Link: H. G. Fischer Closeup Snow Electrodes
.JPG Link: Fitzgerald view 1
.JPG Link: Fitzgerald view 2
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Super Marvel
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories red Marvel
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Internal Electrodes
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Ozone Generator
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Girl
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Book
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel A1
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Unit
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvelite Therapeutic Lamps
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Ozone
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Units
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Super Marvel
.JPG Link: Eastern Laboratories Marvel Special
.JPG Link: Master Electric Portable Outfit
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 11
.JPG Link: Master Appliance Units
.JPG Link: Master Electric Unit
.JPG Link: Master Appliance Book
.JPG Link: Master Appliance 2b
.JPG Link: Master Appliance 5b
.JPG Link: Master Appliance 7b
.JPG Link: Master Appliance 9
.JPG Link: Master Electric Book
.JPG Link: Master Electric Logo
.JPG Link: Master Electric Outfit 1
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 10
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 11
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 2
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 20
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 235
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 28
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 2B
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 4A
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 50
.JPG Link: Master Electric No. 8
.JPG Link: Misc. Battery Operated Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Misc. Battery Operated Violet Ray Electrodes
.JPG Link: Parco Unit
.JPG Link: Parco Logo
.JPG Link: Parco Electrodes
.JPG Link: Parco Unit
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Logo
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Electrodes
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Unit
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Electrodes
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Logo
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Unit
.JPG Link: Re'Juvin Unit
.JPG Link: Remco Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Renulife Book
.JPG Link: Renulife Virazone Logo
.JPG Link: Renulife Model H Tag
.JPG Link: Renulife Adjustment Knob
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Unit
.JPG Link: Renulife Model E
.JPG Link: Renulife Model F
.JPG Link: Renulife Beauty Parlor Model G
.JPG Link: Renulife Model A
.JPG Link: Renulife Dental Model D
.JPG Link: Renulife Model B
.JPG Link: Renulife Model C
.JPG Link: Battery Generator for Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife Electrodes
.JPG Link: Renulife Neck Treatment
.JPG Link: Renulife Ozone Treatment
.JPG Link: Renulife Back Treatment
.JPG Link: Renulife Treatment w/ Text
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife Business Card
.JPG Link: Renulife Building
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife
.JPG Link: Renulife Books
.JPG Link: Renulife Model C Instructions
.JPG Link: Halliwell Shelton Book
.JPG Link: Halliwell Shelton Unit
.JPG Link: Shelton Unit
.JPG Link: Shelton Units
.JPG Link: Shelton Treatment Photo
.JPG Link: Shelton Treatment Photo
.JPG Link: Indirect Treatments for Shelton
.JPG Link: Halliwell-Shelton Unit
.JPG Link: Shelton Units
.JPG Link: Shelton Internal Components
.JPG Link: Tucker's Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Tucker's Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Corporation Violet Ray
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Book
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Bleadun Dun Building
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Logo
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Inspection Tag
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Unit
.JPG Link: Baby Bleadon Dun Violetta
.JPG Link: Baby Bleadon Dun Violetta Instructions
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type C
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type C
.JPG Link: Baby Bleadon Dun Violetta unit
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta unit
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Outfit 3
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Outfit 5
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Outfit 6
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Outfit 7
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type A
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type A1
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type B
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type C
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type C1
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Double Duty Electrode
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta De Luxe
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Internal Electrodes
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Type MB
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Violetta Outfit 1
.JPG Link: VI-Ray-O Unit
.JPG Link: VI-Ray-O Logo
.JPG Link: Virex Violet Ray Machine
.JPG Link: Surface and External Throat Diathermy Electrodes
.JPG Link: Internal Throat Diathermy Electrodes
.JPG Link:Urethral / Nasal / Ear Diathermy Electrodes
.JPG Link: Vaginal / Prostatic Diathermy Electrodes
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Electrodes
.JPG Link: Various Surface Electrodes
.JPG Link: Diathermy / Cold Cautery Electrodes
.JPG Link: Renulife's Physician's Electrodes
.JPG Link: Rectal / Insulated Vaginal Electrodes
.JPG Link: External Throat / Rake / Surface / Eye Electrodes
.JPG Link: Ozone Generator
.JPG Link: Condenser / Nasal / Cautery-Fulgeration / Indirect Violet Ray Electrodes
.JPG Link: Bleadon Dun Bleadon Dun Violetta Ad
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 1
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 2
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 3
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 4
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 5
.JPG Link: Violet Ray Machines 6

VIOLET RAY DEVICES were small handheld disruptive discharge coils that applied high frequency
currents to the body via various glass vacuum electrodes.
DIATHERMY MACHINES were higher powered Tesla Coils for therapy and surgical work. They were used to
cauterise tissue, coagulate blood, and treat many conditions, and were in no way quackery devices.
OUDIN ("wee-den") RESONATORS were large series wound coils made to ionise the air around the patient and cause a
violet effluve to bombard the skin.
A FEW misconceptions about high frequency treatments...
* Violet Ray devices and glass vacuum electrodes emit ultraviolet radiation: FALSE!
The purple light seen in these electrodes is merely ionised air in a vacuum. Inside of the tube
is ultraviolet radiation - which is invisible - but cannot be transmitted through glass (except quartz,
of which no violet ray electrodes were made). The sparks generated from high frequency apparatus
(or, any sparks in general) do produce ultraviolet radiation... but the electrodes themselves do not.
WARNING: Orifical electrodes are for PHYSICIAN'S USE. When in use they do not cause pain,
only heat. In untrained hands however they can cause severe internal burns, stick and tear mucous
membranes, and even cause intenstinal gas to ignite (ie, explode) inside of the body!
Time has proven this, as well as some very embarassing hospital visits by some unfortunate

(YES, I admit, these machines have been selling for years as S&M adult novelties, under the name
"Violet Wands". I have contacted all of the OEMs on these machines,
for historical info on their units. Only one company obliged. Many hung up the phone
repeatedly. Pravda Vitezi (czech) The truth prevails!)

* Treatments recommending a 1/4" spark length means that you hold the electrode 1/4" from the
surface of the body: FALSE!
Treatment charts stating spark length of coil simply means to adjust the coil to an intensity
that will produce such a spark. Treatments will generally be given with the electrode in contact
with the body's surface relying on the ability of the current to effect the tissue in that area...
*** Any spark directed to the surface of the skin can cause severe burns ***
Low current machines such as violet ray devices produce a sharper "colder" spark than those from Oudin or
Tesla / Diathermy machines. The "hotter" sparks from the latter machines are literally that -- and can ignite
flammable substances in their path or cause severe burns to tissues...

Words that confuse people:
Oudin Resonator: (See pic below). The original Oudin Resonators were operated from
large induction coils producing 16-20" sparks. These sparks were fed to a pair of heavily
insulated leyden jars and a muffled spark gap. The Oudin Resonator itself was a coil form
roughly 11" or so in diameter and several feet tall. The primary and secondary coils were both wound
on this form, being connected in series with one another. The secondary coil was wound with relatively
thick wire (thicker than most Tesla Coils) to add to the capacity of the coil. The turns were always space
wound. Sparks generated were preferred no longer than 3 or 4 inches, however, the EFFLUVE or
ability of the coil to ionise the air should be at least 12". That is to say, if one approaches the
terminal of the coil with his or her body the air will ionise between the electrode and his or her skin. This causes a
bombarding prickly sensation of undescribable character.
Tesla described the feeling as a 'bombardment of miniature hail stones', where if the current was
increased the skin would burst. Poetically accurate.
To receive a spark from such an apparatus would cause severe pain and burns. Patients often sat in
chairs for the treatments placed on metal grounding plates that were attatched to the bottom of the
coil. The top of the coil was attatched to a large circular plate with many needles that was placed
a foot or so from the patients body - causing the body to act as a sort of dielectric with the electodes.
The effluve is rich in ultra-violet radiation. (Being made up of ionised air).
The effluve is comparable to a spark being transformed into a mist of 1000 sparks. (See photos)
Many later machines marked "Oudin" on the outputs were referring simply to a high frequency coil
of any variety with the primary and secondaries connected in series. A classic example of lost
terminology by incorrect usage over time!

d'Arsonval Coil: A high frequency coil of relatively few turns using thick wire. Treatments are always
bi-polar. Think of a d'Arsonval coil as an Oudin Resonator without a secondary coil.
D'Arsonval Coils were originally made with induction coil / leyden jar / spark gap arrangments whereas
diathermy machines were essentially d'Arsonval coils operated at lower voltages and higher
amperages, producing considerably more heat in the tissues.
[Many Diathermy machines
were made with small Oudin Coils - the primaries of which were led to terminals marked "d'Arsonval".
This can be somewhat misleading in trying to figure out correct terminology]

Thermo-Penetration a vague term for bipolar treatments of either the d'arsonval or diathermic types.

Useless trivia: The volts/amps across a bipolar d'Arsonval, Diathermy, or Thermo-Penetration coil
is that of the exciting apparatus. With d'Arsonval coils this meant 50kv+ for induction coils.
With diathermy coils this could have been as low as 1200 volts. The current is low for d'Arsonval
coils and very high for diathermy coils. Treatment times varied from apparatus to apparatus because
of these factors.
Auto - Conduction - placing the entire body or body part into a large coil of wire.
Auto Conduction Cages were similar to beds with massive coils surrounding them. The body was
effected by eddy currents much like the core of a transformer. Imagine a large air-core transformer...
a "human-core" transformer!
Auto - Condensation - using the body as one plate of a capacitor.
Auto - Condensation couches were large couches that acted as a human - metal capacitor,
with the cushion being the dielectric. Patients held metallic auto condensation electrodes not
unlike large indirect electrodes for violet ray machines, which the other terminal of the coil was
attatched to a metal plate under the cushion. The patient oscillated as the plate of a condenser.

D'Arsonval, Diathermy, or Thermo-Penetration currents were used for Autocondensation and
Autoconduction. The length of treatment was based on voltage, current, and frequency of the exciting
Solenoid - A helix of wire (coil). Has nothing to do wiith the modern definition.

TESLA or OUDIN? I like to be specific to electrotherapeutical
history when speaking of coil designs. However, I acknowledge whole-heartily that Nikola Tesla has
patents on flat-spiral pancake coils, series wound resonators, cone shaped coils, and helix coils.
That is why I love Tesla's term "disruptive discharge coil". It's vague and doesn't connect
someone's name (like Tesla or Oudin) directly to the vagueness!
Tesla experimented with some fabulous coil designs that noone gives him credit for anymore!
[Not to mention Guilleminot or O'Farrell, Rochefort and the rest! (See below)]
Hell, I've even seen TV flyback transformers listed as Oudin coils on the net!!!! Unbelievable.