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This Won't Hurt a Bit: 1937

This Won't Hurt a Bit: 1937

Washington, D.C., circa 1937. "Children's Hospital Rotary." Who can tell us what's going on here? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Too funny

I had an unfortunate stay at Children's Hospital in the very early 80s and I swear they might have still been using those same cribs. This photo sparked a memory I hadn't recalled in years and years; when I first got there, they'd put me in a crib just like this. I was five years old. A very nice nurse saw me and said, "Oh, you're a big girl, you shouldn't be in a crib. Let's get you into a big girl bed." A minor kindness that made me feel much better in the midst of a very bad illness.


If I saw a contraption as scary looking as this as a kid I'd have leaped off that bed and taken off pronto. Poor kid.

Same Socks? Same Kid?

He must have talked dirty to Dr. Eleanor Hunt.

[Both kids are wearing striped socks. But with different stripes. Different kids, too. - Dave]


We're sending him to the 8th Dimension. Watch out for Lectroids.


That's one reason nurses no longer wear caps- the others are that they always got tangled in the privacy drapes and were ultimately unsanitary because they could never really be cleaned well. Still have my cap, but haven't worn it since graduation!


I am an anesthesiologist and thus I use an EKG every day in my work. Thus I immediately recognized this as an early EKG. It requires an electrode on the right arm, left arm, and the left leg in order to "see" the heart electrical currents from different directions.

His sock is off is to be able to put the electrode on the ankle. We know now that they could just as well have put it further up on his leg and left the sock on.

Interesting photograph.

We know it is not electroconvulsive therapy because ECT is done on the head and not on the limbs, ECT was first done in Italy by Cerletti and Bini in 1938, a year after the photo was made.

Assault and Battery

I think they're trying to jump-start the poor kid.

Nursing caps

Nurses no longer wear nursing caps. The nurse in the photo shows why: they got tired of the caps constantly falling off the back of their heads.

Yes, Nurse Ratched

I will never, ever jump on the bed again.

Gimme gimme Shock Treatment!

Poor kid.


I noticed the small piece of a yardstick we can see on the floor - looks like it says McDougall-Butler. A search yielded a paint company based out of Buffalo, NY that could be a possibility.

An Early ECG

This is a very early ECG machine. The electrodes are strapped to the child's wrists and left ankle in a standard setup. Even earlier (say 30 years before) when electrodes weren't available, there were baths of salt water to put one's hands and foot into. The equipment used a "string galvanometer" which vibrated with the heartbeat; the tracing was recorded on film stock, developed, printed, and pasted onto cardboard.

--Retired cardiologist

The String Galvanometer Electrocardiograph

Here the principle of the device is explained in greater detail:

Shocking electrical adventures

Amazing that they would put a boy that large in a crib. He barely fits. But that seems to be the least of his worries. One can hope this boy was a model used in a photo session, to promote the device, and not a real patient.

[That's a hospital bed. - Dave]


If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and try again...

EKG sounds right

The machinery is quite a blast from an engineer's perspective. This thing would have been called an oscillograph. The light source is the item at the left end, then some optics to make a small spot, then there must be a galvanometer to move a mirror that moves the spot of light across the slit that the roll of what I assume is photographic paper is exposed through. There's a drive belt with a flywheel to move the paper past the slit at a controlled rate.

The Tungar box below is a rectifier to power the electronics (Tungar is a rectifier tube brand that I've heard of - Tung-Sol perhaps?). I assume that there is a vacuum tube amplifier to boost the feeble pulse signal to drive the galvanometer.

[Not quite. The "Tungar" box is General Electric battery charger. - Dave]

Who wants a drumstick?

I saw the caption real quick in my peripheral vision and thought it said Children's Hospital Rotisserie. Talk about a double-take.

Cambridge Electrocardiograph

Similar to the one here.

Amazing that last month I walked around for a day with a monitor the size of a pack of cigarettes (probably not the best analogy) that recorded my thousands of heartbeats.

[I think we have a winner! The kid may have had rheumatic fever. - Dave]

Polio testing

I had it when I was 5 years (in 1952) old and this is similar, as much as I can recall, of what I went through.

Flux capacitor

1.21 gW.

Poor kid

Looks like the very definition of "scared stiff."

Diathermy Generator

Maybe a diathermy generator. Or a myograph. Whatever it is, it's made by Cambridge Instruments.

Early ECG

This is amazing to me... I've never seen a picture like this. The boy looks like he is getting an electrocardiogram. But I can't say for sure because again, I've never seen equipment like this.

You actually have a point

... with the sock comment. It appears that the boy has something strapped to each wrist as well as to his left ankle, though not his right. So it would appear that his single sock status actually serves some sort of purpose.

What this could actually be, however, I have no idea.

Take it from a nurse

This looks like they are checking this child's extent of paralysis due to polio.


This is what it might be, although a bit unnerving for a child!


It's probably an electrocardiograph. He appears to have electrodes attached to his wrist and ankle. There should be at least one more attached to his chest, under his shirt. The part of the device to the nurse's left looks like a film recorder, which would be used to record the waveform.

What's going on

Ancient dialysis machine?

Wild Guess

The closest thing I can think of is that it is a precursor to an EKG. Can hardly wait for what the students of old medical techniques come up with.

This is what happens

... to boys who lose their socks.


"Ve hav vays uf making you talk!"

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