Boyd’s BatteryFor ALL diseases”

Image – kind permission of the Electrotherapy Museum

Medical Quackery

This blog is a continuation of the post TONIC of DEATH published in December 2022 and another example of a‘snake oil’ surprise. I think people were very gullible in earlier times. When electricity was still a novelty and medical quackery was rife there was a guy from New York who marketed a ‘battery’ that had remarkable qualities, advertised as a generator of healing electric current for the wearer. The current was said to be produced by the reaction of the varying metals.

Scott Clark, a detectorist from Kentucky, found part of one of these 1870’s devices, and shared his find with me. Unfortunately, I was unable to reproduce a decent image to show you, but it was similar to the one above. J C Boyd claimed that his miniature device should be worn around the neck, preferably over the heart. The battery (supposedly) worked by ‘Galvanic action’ due to the ‘union of metals.’ We all know that in a common battery the effect is usually facilitated by an acid, but Boyd’s device needed only ‘the natural humidity of the skin’ to cause a beneficial flow of electricity in the blood … so he claimed!

The Blood is the Life

“Professor” Boyd, an early advocate of galvanism, promoted his battery as having healing qualities for a host of ailments. The combination of different metals (usually copper, brass and nickel) in contact with the natural humidity of the skin was said to produce a beneficial electric current that would purify the blood and safely cure any number of conditions, including arthritis headaches, rheumatism and toothache. If only!

His pendants were the most commonly used in the late 19th century and there were a number of imitators. He patented his battery in America initially and shortly afterwards in England.


I stated above that people must have been very gullible in the 19th Century. Nothing has changed. Even today gullible people tend to believe whatever they are told. A modern phenomenon is the copper magnetic bracelet sold by a trader in Aylesbury market today: also available on eBay.

The salesman claimed that his magnetic metallic bracelets could ease rheumatoid arthritis pain. Other health claims included:‌

  1. Better blood circulation
  2. Toxin removal
  3. Pain relief
  4. ‌Less inflammation through dilation of blood vessels
  5. Less stiffness
  6. More energy
  7. Faster recovery and healing

Wow. I think that’s all. The guy took me for a mug with a lot of money and said metallic bracelets made of different materials have different uses. For example, gold bracelets would improve my brain function, while silver bracelets may ward off infections and boost my immune system. I’m saving to buy that expensive gold one! Not really.

Alas my research tells me, the common thing among all these claims is that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove or disprove them. There haven’t been enough studies carried out to show that metallic bracelets don’t work. But most of the research that’s been done has found claims about their effectiveness to be partly or completely false

There may be no physical health benefits to wearing metallic bracelets but they perhaps serve as placebos that help adjust mental state when dealing with pain or illness. A sugar pill would be much better . . . and easier on the pocket.

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  1. And here I got home yesterday from the hospital with a new implant inserted into my spine, John.. [really].. It is the last hurrah for trying to ameliorate my pain.. It is called a spinal cord stimulation.

    Love the story about the disc.. I have never heard of anything like that.. But as you said, the copper and magnetic bracelets are quite popular out this way.. I have always maintained a healthy amount of skepticism about their efficacy; But even if it is only a placebo effect for people, …. hey.. if it works, for them , more power to them..

    I hope all is well with you my friend.. May Christmas find you happy, joyous and peaceful

    Keep north John


    Liked by 1 person

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