Dr. Alvan R. Lauer of Iowa State college sent here today a shiny red instrument of torture, designed apparently to give the ordinary, garden-variety motorist the everlasting willies. This device, which Dr. Lauer invented and christened the drivometer, insidiously reverses the usual laws of nature and turns them wrong side forward. The drivometer consists essentially of an automobile which doesn’t move, and a landscape which does, at 50 miles an hour. Imagine that, if you can! We couldn’t either, until the American Automobile association persuaded us to sit behind the wheel. The road twisted like a hula dancer – and we were supposed to steer down it, paying close attention to stop lights, warning signals, WPA men working, and hot dog stands. Never before have we had such a ride. We knocked a truck off the road. We ran down a farmer’s daughter and we wrecked his house. We whanged into a freight train, jumped across a mountain range, drove through a lake and smashed an ice cream shoppe into tutti-frutti. We tried to stop the thing, but everything we pressed made it go faster. We shifted into reverse and raced to the rear, bumping barns, beats and bicycles. Sadly shaking his head, Earl Allgaier, the AAA safety expert, turned off the current. He said we didn’t seem to be very well coordinated, somehow, but that he’d test us on his other machinery. This, together with the drivometer, will be taken on a nationwide tour beginning next week to prove to the average motorist that he’s got a lot to learn.
Update: I think the top picture shows the 2nd version of the Driveometer, developed in the 1950s. The original version, from the 1930s, is below.
Invented by Mrs. E. Isabella Gilbert in 1936 (although I think similar gadgets had been on the market before). They came with these instructions: "Wear dimplers five minutes at a time, two or three times a day, while dressing, resting, reading or writing. Look into the mirror and laugh. There will be a semblance of a line where you should always place the dimplers until your dimples are made."
According to History By Zim: "The American Medical Association argued that the 'Dimple Maker' would not make dimples or even enlarge original dimples. They also stated that prolonged use of the devise may actually cause cancer."
Louisville Courier-Journal - June 19, 1937
Battle Creek Enquirer - June 19, 1937
Detroit Free Press - Aug 9, 1936
Medford Mail Tribune - Nov 22, 1936
Update: I was curious to know when exactly the American Medical Association denounced the Dimple Maker, since the History by Zim blog didn't mention a date. I tracked it down to 1947, when the AMA put together a collection of quack medical products that it displayed on a nationwide tour of museums.
Back in 1937, Rev. A. Earl Lee set a record for preaching the longest sermon ever, preaching continuously for 21 hours. "He ate regular meals, preaching between bites, changed his clothes, and even took a bath while continuing the sermon by talking into a portable microphone."
Bradford Evening Star - June 29, 1937
However, it seems that world's longest sermon has been a hotly contested record. Today the record is up to 53 hours and 11 minutes. That record was set in 2014 by Florida pastor Zach Zehnder. Although it seems that he took some brief breaks for power naps. Is that allowed? Apparently so. In the video below you can watch the last 11 minutes of his sermon — and most of the rest of it is on YouTube if, for some reason, you want to sit through it.
1930: Dr. C.F. B. Stowell, speaking to fellow dentists at the annual meeting of the American Dental Association, advised that if a young woman was unwed it would be better not to pull all her "devitalized teeth," because she "must be as beautiful as possible to secure a husband." But if the woman was married -- go ahead and pull those teeth!
Life - Feb 14, 1930
Lurking behind this statement, I believe, was the idea of "Focal infection theory." According to this theory, which was widely held by dentists in the 1920s and 30s, infected teeth were responsible for a variety of diseases including arthritis, cancer, and mental illness. So if there was any suspicion that a tooth was infected, it was better to pull it. In fact, it was often better to pull all a patient's teeth, whether or not they showed any signs of problems, just to be safe.
Unsuspected periapical disease was first revealed by dental X-ray in 1911, the year that Frank Billings lectured on focal infection to the Chicago Medical Society. Introduced by C Edmund Kells, the technology became used to feed the "mania of extracting devitalized teeth"... Many dentists were "100 percenters", extracting every tooth exhibiting either necrotic pulp or endodontic treatment, and extracted apparently healthy teeth, too, as suspected foci, leaving many persons toothless. A 1926 report published by several authors in Dental Cosmos—a dentistry journal where Willoughby Miller had published in the 1890s—advocated extraction of known healthy teeth to prevent focal infection. Endodontics nearly vanished from American dental education. Some dentists held that root canal therapy should be criminalized and penalized with six months of hard labor.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
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