"Can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir!" - Old Vibrator Ad
Vibrators were used exclusively by doctors up until around 1900.
The first of such devices was made in 1869, when American physician George Taylor patented the first steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus. Unfortunately, their use was exclusive -- the units were costly to manufacture, difficult to move and marketed for use by spas and physicians only.
In 1880 the first battery-operated vibrator was designed by British physician Joseph Mortimer Granville and manufactured by the Weiss Company. Like their present-day counterparts, these battery-operated vibes were less expensive and easier to move and manipulate than their predecessors.
By 1900 more than a dozen manufacturers began producing both battery-powered vibrators and models that operated from line electricity. In the newly electrified home, women were avid consumers of electrical appliances.
First electrified was the sewing machine; the fan, the tea kettle, the toaster, and the vibrator came next.
During the turn of the century, vibrators began to be marketed as home appliances.
Vibrators were widely advertised in household publications such as Modern Woman and Woman's Home Companion. Their ads were legendary, promoting such claims as "Relieves All Suffering. Cures Disease."
Another great ad boasted, "Invented by a woman who knows a woman's needs." A woman's needs, indeed!
By 1906 the American Vibrator Company of St. Louis, Missouri, was one of several advertising regulars with similarly memorable copy, suggesting to women that the "American Vibrator ... can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir, and furnish every woman with the essence of perpetual youth."
Throughout the 1910s and '20s these ads flourished, yet little mention of the ads or products appeared in the magazines' copy. Mail order was the standard method of marketing vibrators between 1900 and 1920.
In the mid-1920s vibrators began to appear in erotic films and photography, effectively driving them from "respectable" publications.
Vibrator ads virtually disappeared until the modern vibrator resurfaced in the 1960's as a frankly sexual device.
From the 1950s onward, one could find ads in women's magazines for "massagers" (not "vibrators" -- they were also occasionally called "spot reducers," and were ostensibly marketed for weight reduction).
Due to more open views towards sexuality, vibrators reappeared as "acceptable" home appliances in the 1960s but continued to be marketed as "beauty aids" even up until the 1970s, when they began to be marketed as sex aids.
Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations store in San Francisco, California, energizing the vibrator revolution.
In 1976 and 1977, Joani Blank and Down There Press published the first edition of Good Vibrations: The Complete Guide to Vibrators. Joani Blank opened the first Good Vibrations store in San Francisco, California, energizing the vibrator revolution.
Vibrators continued to be advertised in the back sections of women's magazines, yet they also appeared in publications targeted towards the sexual "new woman." These devices were (and still are) marketed with sex and sensuality as the selling point, yet the fine print invariably calls them "novelties."
Yes, we agree that this seems absurd, but don't worry -- we all know what they're really used for!
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.Read more