Antique Vibrator Museum

"Invented by a woman who knows a woman's needs." - Old Vibrator Ad

San Francisco Landmark

A Historically Sexy Must-See

The Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum is a San Francisco Landmark and attracts a peeked curiosity from visiting tourists and Bay Area residents alike.

Lead by Staff Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, Antique Vibrator History Tours cover the invention and functions of early vibrators, and displays our beautiful vintage exhibits.

Following the tour, guests are welcome to browse modern vibrators at Good Vibrations Sex Shop.

Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum Collection

The vibes in our collection date from the late 1800s up through the 1970s.

We display our treasures alongside our company collection online and in our San Francisco Polk Street Store. The vibes in our collection date from the late 1800s up through the 1970s. The electric vibrator had its inception in 1869 with the invention of a steam-powered massager, patented by an American doctor. This device was designed as a medical tool for treating "female disorders." Within 20 years a British doctor followed up with a more portable battery-operated model; by 1900, dozens of styles of electric vibrators, just like those in our exhibit, were available to the discriminating medical professional.

Treating Hysteria
Physicians employed vibrating devices in the treatment of "hysteria," which they viewed as the most common health complaint among women of the day. Hysteria was a medical term developed to describe a woman's display of mental or emotional distress, behavior then considered a disease in need of treatment. Though the existence of hysteria as a disease was debunked by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952, medical experts from the time of Hippocrates up to the 20th century believed that hysteria expressed the womb's revolt against sexual deprivation. Genital massage was a standard treatment for hysteria; its objective was to induce "hysterical paroxysm" (better known as orgasm) in the patient. Such treatment demanded both manual dexterity and a fair amount of time, so turn-of-the-century physicians were delighted with the efficiency, convenience and reliability of portable vibrators. In light of hysteria's historical legacy, we can see that classifying hysteria as a disease was a refusal to acknowledge female sexuality as a human trait on par with male sexual functioning, as well as a refusal to recognize orgasm as a normal function of female sexuality.

Health, Vigor and Beauty
The vibrator was later marketed as a home appliance in women's magazines and mail order catalogs. Ads proffering "health, vigor and beauty" promoted the vibrator as a health aid. By the 1920s, doctors had abandoned hands-on physical treatments for hysteria in favor of psychotherapeutic techniques. But vibrators continued to have an active commercial life in which they were marketed (much like snake oil) as cure-alls for ills ranging from headaches and asthma to "fading beauty" and even tuberculosis!

The ad copy for these vibrators was coy and ambiguous. "Be a glow getter," one package insert suggests. And who wouldn't be tempted to experience "that delicious, thrilling health-restoring sensation called vibration," when assured that "it makes you fairly tingle with the joy of living"? The vibrator's usefulness for masturbation was never acknowledged; however, as vibrators began appearing in stag films of the 1920s, it became difficult to ignore their sexual function. Probably as a result, advertisements for vibrators gradually disappeared from respectable publications.

A Superior Sex Toy
To this day, electric vibrators are marketed solely as massagers -- and battery vibes as novelties -- while manufacturers steadfastly ignore their sexual benefits. Vibrators are now a big business; they are sold through drug stores, department stores and even the Sears catalog!  The staff at Good Vibrations dream of the day when all vibrators are proudly promoted as the superior sex toys they are. After all, as a vintage advertisement claims, "almost like a miracle is the miraculous healing force of massage when rightly applied."

Antique Vibrators Hysteria Causes Quite a Buzz

Our Antique Vibrator Museum is a San Francisco visitor's landmark, and the vibes are featured in films such as The Power & The Passion, and Hysteria, a romantic comedy staring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

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Good Vibrations Polk Street - 1620 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA - Press: 510-380-8804