, Derry, New Hampshire


February 13, 2014

Column: Thankfully, doctors' instruments have improved over the years


For those who wanted to avoid the dentist’s office, there was an alternative. In 1901, there was advertised in the Derry News a home dentistry kit. For only $1, Dr. Fred Knell, the painless dentist of Lawrence, Mass., would send you a do-it-your-self dental kit complete with instruction booklet and enough amalgam to fill 50 teeth. Why pay dentists $1 a tooth when you could be your own dentist in the comfort and privacy of your own living room? I can well imagine my grandkids’ reaction if I had told them to open their mouths wide because Pepere is their new dentist.

One piece of “modern” medical of which I am rather unsure of its benefits was purchased by Dr. George Beckley of Derry. In April 1907, he bought a Sheldon Vibrator for use in his examining room. This electrical device, he claimed, was used all over America with wonderful success by countless physicians and hospitals. Among the conditions the vibrator machine could cure were “constipation, appendicitis, female troubles, old cases of nervous prostration and mild cases of insanity.” Dr. Matthew Beckley, who has an office in Derry, is the great-grandson of Dr. George Beckley. I wonder if Matt has ever used a Sheldon Vibrator machine in his practice? Probably not.

A method to produce X-rays was invented in 1895 by Dr. Wilhelm Roentgen of Germany. The first known use of radiology on a local occurred in August 1896. At the time, the only X-ray machine in the state was in a private doctor’s office in Manchester. Frank Boyle, a local baseball player, injured his pitching arm and now couldn’t bend it. In the Queen City, the fluoroscope found the arm “full of adhesions” and cured it by “forcibly extending” the joint. The first X-ray machine in Derry was installed in 1935 at the Alexander Eastman Hospital of East Derry; it cost $4,500. Its first patient was Mrs. Gertrude Spollett of Chester, who had a fractured hip.

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