Skip navigation

Electric Snake Oil - Quack Miracle Cures of the Past

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mysterious power of electricity was promoted as a secret to health and vitality with some pretty wacky devices.

A century and more along the way, it’s difficult to recapture the excitement that surrounded electricity in the early days, when it first became widely available and visionaries and hucksters began exploring its many possible uses. But the Internet bears some hints.

Here is a gallery of some of the fanciful, frightening and truly strange devices that were promoted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as miracle cures for just about any ailment you can name. It’s a reminder of how far we have come in the scientific testing and verification of claims about the health effects of electricity, and perhaps a cautionary note that we shouldn’t take modern cures at face value either.

Since that time, of course, many medically valuable forms of electrotherapy, such as electrical muscle stimulation used in physical therapy, have brought relief to many patients, but a look back at the way it all started provides some valuable context. Enjoy.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.