Quack back massager from 1930

To think that the humble anal bead began life as a quack 1930s back massager! From the Aug, 1930 ish of Physical Culture (which magazine, I'm reliably assured by Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre is a kind of ground zero for quack medical adverts.

NU-VIM (Aug, 1930)


  1. C’mon Cory, this is classic (circa 1980) ad copy, like the Consumer’s Distributing ‘Personal Massager’ for ‘deep muscle stimulation’

    In short, this is a sneaky but legal way to advertise their real use!

  2. I don’t know how ”quack” this is; could have some relaxing and toning value. Certainly better for you than sticking a string of beads up your ass.

  3. I’ve used a back massager like that before. It was made of wood.

    It didn’t exactly feel more than a little bit pleasant.

  4. Because of the Comstock Act, these things couldn’t be labeled as what they were. You see a lot of ads from the period touting vibrators as neck massagers or complexion aids – check out the picture of the Ash Flash at http://www.vibratormuseum.com/battery/index.html – the instruction guide, with the picture of the lady doing her face with her vibrator, is now a hilarious period piece.

  5. @Toast

    That must be one hell of a vibrator. They recommend purchasing a walking cane with it.

  6. Anal beads are at least hundreds of years old. It is mentioned in the historical novel Shogun, which is set in 1600 or so.

  7. My friend Bob McCoy created the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, perhaps the largest collections of these things anywhere. Since Bob’s retirement the collection now resides at the Science Museum of Minnesota. He has a website at:


    One of my favorites is the “Stimulator” or “Crystaldyne Pain Reliever”:

    “The Stimulator is essentially an electric gas barbecue grill igniter outfitted with finger grips. When pressed against the skin, the devices sparks and causes a small electric shock. Makers of the device claim it can relieve headaches, back pain, arthritis, stress, menstrual cramps, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, flu and other ailments. ”

    And you’ll have to go there for info on the “Timely Warning”: “PREVENTS NIGHT EMISSIONS BY AROUSING THE WEARER”

    Many are marvels of wood, glass and metal -a Steampunkers delight!

  8. @JSO

    You can ctrl-meta-alt-triplebackwardsbucky-s t f u emacs-lover!
    This shows that vim is the superior technology…
    it can even massage your back!

  9. You guys are more familiar with the form factor of anal beads rather than their scale and actual use, right?

  10. Indeed, I call shenanigans on both the usage of the term “quack” (it is and does exactly what it claims) and the suggestion that this particular massager has any relationship to anal beads other than a rough similarity of form.

  11. Certainly better for you than sticking a string of beads up your ass.

    [citation needed]


  12. Rasz.. *sigh* I can’t even bring my self to make the appropiate joke..

    Anyone want to jump in on this?

  13. I just drove past that address in Philly this weekend. I wasn’t specifically looking for the Nu-Vim Appliance Co., but I’m fairly certain it’s no longer located there.

    The bottom must have fallen out of the Exhilarator market.

  14. A lot of this milieu was wacky and quacky, but they also recommended:
    Fruit and veggies
    Whole Grains
    Smoking Cessation
    Decades before the medical establishment realized the benefits.
    I am not touting the benefits of the device in question, but parts of the physical culture movement was actually ahead of its time.

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