London: Printed by Luke Hansard [...] for J. Johnson [et al.], 1799. 8vo. xxiv, 355,  pp. Original publisher's drab boards; recent light brown paper spine, title ("Perkins Metallic Tractors") and date lettered direct (corners and extremities of boards worn); textblock toned and somewhat foxed or spotted here and there; edges untrimmed. Very good antiquarian condition. Item #1991
One of the most extraordinary quack remedies for Man and Beast. Dr. Elisha Perkins (1741-1799), of Connecticut, had in 1795 introduced the use of "Metallic Tractors" for the treatment of a wide range of disorders, including pains in the head, face, teeth, breast, side, stomach, back, rheumatism and gout. During the next decade the devices were the subject of intense controversy in America and Europe. The Tractors measured about 3" long and were sold in pairs; they were supposedly made up of certain metals (their precise composition was kept secret) that worked through the agency of "animal magnetism." Millions of ailing consumers paid huge prices for Perkins's Metallic Tractors (George Washington who bought several sets). The Perkins name was perhaps the first truly successful international "name branding" campaign in history, medical or otherwise. The first part of the volume relates investigations by Danish physicians and surgeons on the efficacy of the Metallic Tractors (naturally the results were very favorable). The second part is made up of English cases ranging from toothache through rheumatism, gout, erysipelas, and St. Vitus dance, to lockjaw.
The third part (pp. 259-83) is devoted entirely to the "treatment" of horses, cows and sheep with the Metallic Tractors. Concerning the experiments on animals, the text begins: "The salutary effects of the Tractors on the human subject must naturally suggest, to reflecting minds, the probability of their being also useful in many diseases of the brute creation." (p. 259). Afflictions "treated" include contusions, wounds of the eyes, inflammation of ankles and hooves, sprains, tendons punctured, and inflammation of udders in sheep. The treatment of animals with the tractors seems to have been more successful on horses than on cows and sheep; according to the authors, this was due, especially in the case of sheep, to their fleece, which was supplied with an oily fluid that prevented their successful application.
¶ It is a remarkable fact that in 1796 Elisha Perkins received the first medical patent issued under the Constitution of the United States; his device was specifically designed to "draw off the noxious electrical fluid that lay at the root of suffering."
¶ That the Metallic Tractors craze was international is attested by the present work: it was written by the Danish surgeon J.D. Herholdt (1764-1836) of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Copenhagen; translated into German by Professor Tode, Physician to his Danish Majesty; then into English Language by Charles Kampfmuller; and then edited by Perkins's son Benjamin Douglas (1774-1810) who developed his father's invention into an international enterprise. The younger Perkins had no medical training but was a promotional and marketing genius, who opened the market to the veterinary trade with the present volume as wells as by authoring a pamphlet, "The Family Remedy; or, Perkins's Patent Metallic Tractors, For the Relief of Topical Disease of the Human Body: And of Horses" (1800).
¶ Provenance: Dr. Olgierd Lindan (1913-2009) assembled the largest collection on quakery in private ownership. For an overview of his astonishing collection, see the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "The late Dr. Olgierd Lindan of South Euclid was a leading collector of quackery" (Jul 4, 2009, updated Mar 27, 2019).
¶ ESTC: T112278. Literature: James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and the Enlightenment in Early America, 239-277. William Snow Miller, "Elisha Perkins and His Metallic Tractors" (in: Yale Journal of Biology and Science, Oct. 1935, 8(1): 41-57.