Vibrator was first invented in the 1860’s as a
massaging medical device to assist physicians in
the treatment of ‘Hysteria’, the most common
female complaint of the time.
‘Hysteria’ was considered an
incurable disease and a diagnosis could cover
anything from irritability, excessive vaginal
fluid, anxiety, to anti-social behaviour.
As a disease, Hysteria was debunked by
the American Psychiatric Association in 1952,
but medical experts from the time of Hippocrates
up to the 20th century believed that Hysteria
was the womb's revolt against sexual
surprisingly one of the more recognised
‘treatments’ was for the patient’s
physician to bring them to a ‘hysterical
This rather clinical term defined
‘orgasm’, in particular one achieved without
penetration through external stimulation of the
womb and genitals.
The treatment was considered a medical
wonder as the result of ‘hysterical
paroxysm’ immediately abated symptoms and gave
the Hysteria patient a welcomed short term
relief from this incurable complaint.
newly patented steam powered Vibrator of 1869
allowed physicians to desist with what was often
considered the tedious treatment of manual
stimulation, as it could take up to an hour to
achieve the desired results.
With this new fangled medical device,
physicians could treat patients in a quarter of
the late 1800s dozens of styles of Vibrators
from steam and air compression to hand cranked
were available exclusively to the medical
These devices were costly to manufacture,
often cumbersome, and the elaborate attachments
could be difficult to use.
With the advent in the 1880’s of
battery power, more portable Vibrators won
favour as they were less expensive to
manufacture and easier to operate than their
portable devices made it possible for Hysteria
patients to self treat at home and by the turn
of the Century over a dozen manufacturers were
producing portable Vibrators for home use.
was the popularity of these devices that the
Vibrator was soon marketed as a ‘home
appliance’ for the treatment of just about
anything and was the fifth home appliance to be
converted to electricity behind the sewing
machine, fan, tea kettle and toaster.
copy at the time made claims of the health
benefits of vibrations and advertisements
such as the following from the American
Magazine, January 1913, lend insight into the
expectations of health that vibrators could
is life. It will chase away the years like
magic. Every nerve, every fibre of your
whole body will tingle with [the] force of
your own awakened powers. All the keen relish,
the pleasure of youth, will throb within
though Vibrators were largely marketed to women,
men were told of the usefulness of Vibrators as
a gift, for keeping their wives ‘young and
the popularity and commercial claims of
Vibrators being an all over health invigorating
wonder, the guise was up in the 1920’s when
Vibrators began appearing in early Century
pornography and the Vibrator as a sexual device
could no longer be denied.
Mainstream magazines and domestic duty
magazines that until then readily marketed these
health giving devices soon stopped advertising
them and the marketing of Vibrators moved to
was not until the 1960’s that the Vibrator
reappeared again in mainstream advertising, but
despite them being frankly sexual devices this
time round, the advertising copy reflected
society’s need to still not know this and made
the same early type claims of the all over
health giving benefits of vibration.
the 1960’s and the advent of adult sex shops
men were the main purchaser of Vibrators,
largely buying cheap hard plastic numbers with
little or no consideration given the needs of
the intended user, a female.
Thankfully manufacturers and retailers
have addresses this indifference to the female
form and need and quality Vibrators and other
sexual devices for personal use are available to
meet the needs of today’s women.