VIBRATOR Inventor Joseph Mortimer Granville 1880s

LET’S NOT GET INTO Cleopatra’s apocryphal gourd full of bees or the hand-cranked and steam-powered experiments from the Victorian era. Instead, we’ll join the makers of the film Hysteria in giving credit to Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, who was the first to patent an electromagnetically vibrator in the 1880s. Nicknamed The Hammer, it looked like a drill with a ball on the tip.

At the time, the device wasn’t used as a sexual stimulant. It was intended to treat “hysterics”—women who supposedly suffered from the “stagnation of the female juices.” Others saw it as a treatment for arthritis, constipation, hair loss, and more. Pre-1930s advertisements touted them as muscle relaxants.

Now of course, we know better. And a seemingly infinite number of variations of the device are on the market.

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