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06 May, 2013

SOLVED: THE MYSTERY OF A 100-YEAR-OLD SHOE SHINE BOX

I've always had a "shine" for this old box!
Old boxes have always fascinated me.  How old are they?  What did they originally contain?  Who did they belong to and why?  I've never seen a box that I didn't want to save and I have a basement, closets and a garage to show for it.

One small wooden box, approximately 8x8x6 inches, has been a life-long possession and has always mystified me.  As a matter-of-fact, for a combined 90-plus years, my late father Ken and I have used the box to store shoe shining items (polish, brushes and polishing cloth, etc.).

"Are you kidding?  Who shines shoes in this day and age?" you might well ask.  And I would tend to agree...I cannot truthfully say when I last polished a pair of my shoes, let alone opened the box.

The interesting thing about this particular box however, which I understand at one time belonged to one of my grandparents, is a sticker or label on the inside of the lid which reads: "The Jones-Eucamed Electro Medical Bandage, manufactured for Dr. William Jones, magnetic physician, Berlin, Ontario No 1.2.3."  Berlin, of course, was the former name of the City of Kitchener.  It was the Town of Berlin from 1854 until 1912 and the City of Berlin from 1912 until 1916.  So my old shoe box has to have been in the Wright family for at least 100 years.

But what about the "Jones Eucamed Electro Medical Bandage" made for Dr. Jones?  Curiosity finally got the best of me today as I opened the box to check on the condition of shoe polish which has to be more than a decade old.  Two hours of research revealed that during the years 1873 and 1876 Thomas A. Edison made and marketed an electro-medical apparatus he called the "Inductorium" which was reputed to cure rheumatism and to provide "an inexhaustible fount of amusement".

The device consisted primarily of an induction coil with battery and electrodes which were held by the person applying the current to a specific area of the body.

The complete apparatus sold for six dollars ($6.00) and was also said to be used in the treatment of hysteria. For at least two thousand years of European history until the late nineteenth century, hysteria referred to a medical condition thought to be particular to women.  I will not go into further detail on that subject nor the "inexhaustible fount of amusement" claim, except to say that doctors stopped "treating" hysteria" in the 1950s.

I was also interested to find that The Thomas A. Edison Papers, Rutgers University, in New Jersey is anxious to know if any of Edison's Inductoriums survive anywhere, public or private, and if any other material related to the devices are still in existence.

I wonder if they would be interested in my box?  Nowhere does it say "manufactured by Thomas A. Edison", but there is a very good chance that it was.  I wonder too, whatever happened to the original contents.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find information on Dr. William Jones of Berlin, Ontario.

The rest of the story I will never know and maybe that is a good thing.  I'm just glad that I finally got around to doing the research and solving the mystery of what was originally in my old shoe shine box.

And, oh yes, the shoe polish is still in useable condition -- if I ever want to shine a pair of shoes.
Copy of an ad for Edison's "Inductorium"

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