The Victorian era was filled with changing attitudes and circumstances. For the first time in history, average people could afford small luxuries and indulgent new inventions. At the time government regulations were scarce, so many manufactures made wild claims about what some of these brand new inventions could do. Taking a look back at some Victorian inventions there is a mix of lovely products we wish we could use today and many others which are just fascinatingly strange.
If you like to read in bed (or lying on your elegant chaise longue), then it can be awkward to hold your book up properly. Well, the Victorians had a solution for this problem: a reading machine. The use of the word “machine” here is quite liberal since it’s actually just a stand that holds your book and keeps it at eye level for you. Still, it does seem like a very handy invention and one which was probably really useful for those confined to bed. We could also see using this in the kitchen to hold cookbooks open!
As with our modern sticker postage stamps, people in the Victorian era were also looking to avoid that yucky taste that comes from licking stamps. A simple ceramic device, filled with water and with a roller in top, ensures that you don’t have to put up with a horrid taste. It’s a great invention, but it might have easier all around -for the Victorians and us later generations- if stamp glue had just been flavored. Just imagine: vanilla or apple flavor stamps.
Once upon a time it was believed that through the vibration of tissue that one could change their weight and health. According to a 1902 book, entitled A System of Instruction in X-ray Methods and Medical Uses of Light, Hot-Air, Vibration and High-Frequency Currents, a tissue oscillating machine was useful for treating muscle atrophy, obesity, and constipation. These machines held on in some health and fitness clubs into the 1960s as people never stop looking for quick fixes for ill health. Sadly, a machine like this cannot change much about one’s body.
It may sound like some pretty new inventions we have today which can straighten hair while its being brushed. In reality, these products were using the term electric very differently to how we use it today, Back then magnetized metals were called electric because they were thought to have a field of energy that changed matter they came into contact with. This line of reasoning is still common in some circles today. This particular model of metal brush had the advantage of being extremely aesthetically pleasing, something the Victorians were quite good at.
Like the aforementioned hairbrush, the magnetic or electric corset was actually filled with magnetized metal that was supposed to cure a host of ailments. The fact that women were already wearing corsets every single day made a product like this a lot easier to sell. However, since companies didn’t have to prove the efficacy of medical devices, quack remedies like these were rampant despite the fact that they didn’t work.
We saved the best for last because this is an invention that we would love to have today! This novel idea uses the radiator not only for heating rooms, but also for warming plates. A small door in the radiator grate allows for dishes to be placed inside, keeping them hot for serving at the table. An advertisement for one such unit read, “Warm plates ready for serving and food kept hot during the meal add much to the enjoyment of the table and help digestion.” We love the simplicity of a little door in the radiator for just such a purpose. This is one invention that could have actually made life a lot easier.