Model demonstrating application of Renulife Device, ca. 1918Violet Ray Generators


3458. Misbranding of violet ray device, .S. v 2 Cases * * *. (F. D.C. No. 30801. Sample no. 3858-L.):

LIBEL FILED: Between March 2 and April 24, 1951, District of Maryland.

ALLEGED SHIPMENT:  On or about July 24, 1950, by Master Appliances, Inc., from Marion, Ind.

PRODUCT: 2 imitation leather cases, each containing a violet ray device, a general electrode, a rake electrode, a throat electrode, and circulars entitled "The Master High Frequency Violet Ray," "The Master High Frequency Violet Ray A Professional Aid to Health and Beauty," and "Directions for Operating," of Baltimore, Md.

Examination showed that the product consisted essentially of Geissler tubes of various shapes with a transformer assembly to activate them, designed to apply an intermittent ray discharge to the body.

NATURE OF CHARGE: Misbranding, Section 502 (a), certain statements in the circulars were false and misleading. The statements represented and suggested that the device would produce pleasing, invigorating, and corrective effects; that it would be effective as a general treatment by stimulating the circulation;; that it would be effective for beauty, health, and strength; that it would be efficacious in the treatment of rheumatic pain in the shoulder, nervous disorders, rheumatism, lumbago, and neuritis; that it would produce a sedative or quieting effect and establish a normal equilibrium of the nervous system; that it would relieve paingul sensations' that it would be efficacious for treatment of the eyes and ears; that it would be efficacious in the treatment of cystitis, strictures, gonorrhea, and prostate and vaginal troubles; that it would promote circulation; that it would aid beauty and health by gently stimulating the flow of blood; that it would be helpful in relieving pain and congestion and in restoring food health and vigor; that it would be helpful in removing facial blemishes and in promoting a clear, healthful complexion; and that it would aid in the removal of dandruff and assist in stopping falling hair. The device was not an effective treatment for the conditions stated and implied, and it was not capable of producing the effects claimed.

DISPOSITION: April 24, 1951. Default decree of condemnation. The court ordered that the devices be released to the Food and Drug Administration.

From the American Medical Association's Historical Health Fraud & Alternative Medicine Collection.

Master Violet Ray Generator, ca. 1930'sThe device we are most often asked about is the Violet Ray Generator, sometimes called an "ultra violet device." Tens of thousands of these devices were sold for home use between about 1915 and 1950 under brand names such as Masters, Elco and Renulife. Literature accompanying the devices claimed to cure just about everything including heart disease, paralysis, wry neck and writers cramp!



Treatment by High-Frequency Electricity (1892 on)

Arsene D'Arsonval's experiments in the latter part of the 19th century examined the physiological effects of electrical stimulation at frequencies varying from DC up to 10,000 cycles per second. The lowest frequencies varying from DC up to 10,000 cycles per second. The lowest frequencies had chiefly metabolic effects. As the rate increased, muscular contractions were observed; which fused into tetany at about 20-30 stimulations per second. The intensity of excitation increased up to about 5000 stimuli per second, then began to decline as the frequency continued rising to about 10,000 per second -- the limit obtainable with th apparatus of the day.

Device with rake and mushroom electrodes, ca. 1920

In 1890, Heinrich Hertz produced electromagnetic radiation, confirming Maxwell's predictions of twenty years earlier. D'Arsonval's experiments in 1891 found that the Hertzian waves had very few perceptible effects of the sort found at lower frequencies. Tesla, in America, suggested physicians experiment with the heating effects of radio waves; D'Arsonval and his collaborator Paul Marie Oudin, using Tesla apparatus modified for greater safety, proceeded to do so.

Deluxe models had external and orificial attachments.

[The small Violet Ray Machines are] a home-remedy version of the D'Arsonval/Oudin equipment. A hand-held coil feeds radio energy into a low-pressure gas electrode. The energy is capacitively coupled into the human body, providing warmth via diathermy. At the same time, the gas discharge creates ozone and ultraviolet light, which were said to be effective in many skin diseases. More powerful versions of this apparatus were found in many physicians' offices. Diathermy is still used today, thought the energy is now most commonly applied through inductive rather than capacitive coupling.

Device with bakelite handle and single mushroom electrodeGraphics: Top: Master Violet Ray device with three electrodes, ca. 1930's; Middle: Deluxe models included external and orificial attachments; Left: A common model with bakelite handle and a single mushroom electrode sold for about $8.50 during the 1920's. Graphics from Jeff Behary's Turn Of The Century Electrotherapy.

Graphic from Elco Electric Health Generator brochure

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