This sinewy form transcends this washboard from its former functional place in history to an object of simple, minimalist beauty. Start a collection of these once ubiquitous utilitarian objects, each ribbed board shoulders its own story. Imagine a wall in your loft devoid of liitle but a well curated collection of washboards. We have had friends that have rocked collections of domestic artifacts such as clothes pins, wood clothing hangers, rolling pins, … Washboards have sufficient cachet to have captured the attention of star artist Chuck Close. The New York Times style magazine “The Collections of Artists” selected Close’s collection among four art luminaries. What is but one of the objects of his attention? Washboards! This is an early National washboard marked patented December 21, 1897, Chicago, Saginaw, Memphis.
Measurements: 24.5″ tall, 12.5″ wide, 2 .75″ deep
Our interest in not only alternative medicine but a strange, folkloric product based on a gas filled tube with a current generating device caught our attention.The “Violet Ray” is actually Argon gas commonly used in the creation of “neon” signage. Inert, the Argon gas’s molecules are being stimulated by the low voltage current of the generator (transformer) housed inside the case. Renulife High Frequency (Violet Ray) Health Generators claimed to adapt high frequency current for use in treating human disease and conditions. There were several models manufactured in the company’s Detroit laboratories and factory. The glass tubes with argon (inert) gas and single electrode were hand blown and bombarded to “painstaking exactness in the Renulife Laboratories” by supervised, skilled workers. The Renulife generator’s cord plugged into and operated on normal 110 volt house current allowing not only professionally supervised use but patient performed home use.
Each model was equipped with electrodes, as the gas tube electrode, interchangeable units, were referred. The Renulife Electric Company made units for standard use, but also manufactured models for specific professional use. The Model G was created for continuous use by “Beauty Parlors and Barber Shops” for hair and scalp massage and facial treatments. Among the specialized electrodes, it had a tined comb like electrode to rake across the scalp to stimulate hair follicles. Model H was more general purpose home use. An adjustable knob allowed users to control the current strength. It cost $12.50 when originally sold with its built in carrying case made of grained leatherette. They contained not only the general body electrode but the metal saturation electrode. At the height of the products use, 27 electrode styles were being manufactured.
Although some professionals and home users touted the product as responsible for a plethora of medical miracles, most people would consider all the Renulife products as medical quackery. Strangely, they now seem ahead of their time, given modern day Chiropractors and other therapists use less invasive electro-stimulating devices which operate using similar principals.