Nineteenth-Century Disability:  Cultures & Contexts

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  • Tags: Technology

BeckerLibrary_RedConverstionTube.jpg
A conversation tube is a non-electric, acoustic device designed to amplify sounds for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals and is constructed of a flexible tube with a mouthpiece at one end and an ear piece at the other. The device dates to the…

Ear Phonautograph.jpg
As disability theorists such as Douglas Baynton, Jonathan Rée, Lennard J. Davis, Jennifer Esmail, and Jan Branson and Don Miller explain, in both America and England in the mid-nineteenth century, attitudes toward sign language shifted: whereas in…

Mrs. Skewton's Bath Chair.jpg
Charles Dickens’s Dombey and Son (1846–1848) attests to his career-long interest in chair-bound characters[1]—characters who, because of illness, injury, or egotism, are confined or confine themselves to a “wheeled chair” (alternately…

Audiphone_c1926_BeckerLibrary.jpeg
On September 1879, Richard Silas Rhodes (1842-1902), president of a publishing company in Chicago, received a patent for his “Audiphone for the Deaf” his various improvements to the device. (U.S. Patent No. 319,828). Rhodes had conductive hearing…

webster1.jpg
UK patent #7033, dated 17 March 1836, is the earliest British patent for a hearing aid device, granted to the aurist (19th century term for ear specialist) Alphonso William Webster, for his “curious” invention, the Otaphone (sometimes spelled…

eartrumpetmourning.jpg
The ear trumpet is among the earliest hearing aid devices designed to bring sound more effectively to the ear, dating to as early as 1800 when manufacturer Frederick Charles Rein opened shop in London (later becoming F.C. Rein & Son). They came…

Mr. Wegg.jpg
Our Mutual Friend, first published in serial form from 1864–1865, is a novel that literalises George Henry Lewes’s observation that Charles Dickens’s characters are wooden puppets that are brought to life by incident (“Realism and the Art of…

artificial thigh.jpg
Charles Manby Smith (1804–80) was a writer fascinated by and deeply concerned with the position of “cripples” in Victorian society. In the second edition of his most famous work Curiosities of London Life: Or, Phases, Physiological and Social,…

Edison phonograph 1.jpg
Thomas Edison’s phonograph was the first machine to reproduce the human voice. In December 1877, Edison’s associates assembled a device on which Edison recorded the words of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The prototype consisted…

Bath Chair Advert.jpg
In this advertisement for a variety of what we would now call “wheelchairs” or “lounge chairs,” J. Alderman offers “comfort for invalids” in his newly patented “Imperceptibly Graduating, Mechanical, and…
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