Vintage Vibrator Museum in Los Angeles
Sex toys have been around forever – the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians used them frequently. Historically, sex was a male domain, especially when it came to pleasure. The first mechanical vibrators began appearing around the end of the 19th century (there is a reason the 1900s were called ‘The Noughties!’) but the existence of such gadgets was kept very hush-hush and their marketing and advertising had to be very discreet to avoid causing scandal at a time when the very mention of sex was considered sinful and vulgar.
One cheeky way of getting around this was to market vibrators as medical aids to help women overcome ‘hysteria;’ a commonly-diagnosed (and mythical) condition which encompassed anything from period pain and headaches to forgetfulness and depression. Even women who voiced opinions and demonstrated a high level of self-confidence were labeled ‘hysterical,’ in an attempt to keep them suppressed and obedient. Another clever way to sell vibrators under the radar was to market them as massagers which, in a way, they are – it just depends where you want to massage!
My Own Personal Vintage Vibrator Museum
I’ve always been fascinated by the history of sex, and vintage vibrators are a particular passion for me. I’ve been collecting them for years and have found some great items from flea markets, eBay and antique stores. I display my entire collection in my home in beautiful glass cases, like a proper museum, and they’re great conversation starters, especially when I host my naughty parties at my house. So let me share my ‘exhibits!’
White Cross Electric Vibrator
This one dates from the mid 1910s and it’s my most vintage piece. It was advertised with the slogan “Vibration is Life!” promoting “life and vigor, strength and beauty” with claims that “it sends the rich, red blood leaping and coursing through your veins and arteries…” Very true! It just doesn’t mention where on the body the device has the most impact! Like most vintage vibrators, it looks a little like a hairdryer, and the promotional pamphlets would show women using it on their head or back, all very innocent, but everybody knew what the machine was really going to be used for.
I think this is a beautiful vibe. It dates from around 1922 and is easy to hold and direct, like a vanity hairdryer. It has interchangeable heads and the large rubber nubbed head is actually a fantastic general massager, so this vibe is the whole package. Not bad for a machine nearly a century old!
Star-Rite Electric Massager
Star-Rite Electric Massager made by The Fitzgerald Manufacturing Company, this was a deluxe vibrator from the 1940s and cost $12.50 – around $160 today! The reason it was so expensive was that it came with five interchangeable heads to offer different sensations, so it’s kind of like having five vibrators for the price of one.
Eskimo Vibrator Model 760
Eskimo Vibrator marketed as “a wonder for home body massage,” this vibe is from around 1950 and has compact attachments to vary sensation. Like many 1950s products, it’s made from Bakelite and was small enough to take traveling, so it was probably one of the first mass-marketed portable vibrators. The box ‘blurb’ markets it as a massager “to be used wherever massage is desired…” To deflect from its real purpose, the advert also states that it is used “by athletes, barbers, masseurs and beauty operators.” Promoting vibrators as tools which can improve health and fitness was a common marketing technique. This one cost $9 in the 1950s, around $80 today.
Filter Queen Vibrator
Dating from the 1950s, this is an attachment that would have fitted on a Filter Queen vacuum hose and was marketed as a ‘massager.’ The side of the box features sketches of the various ways to use it. Most of the pictures show a guy using it to massage his torso and arms, whereas the only female sketch is of a woman hanging it delicately over her arm. But everyone knew what women were actually using the Filter Queen Vibrator vacuum attachment for! In the 1950s, this vibrator cost $15 which, in today’s money, would be $130, so it was quite an investment, but worth every cent!
Niagara Hand Unit
Niagara Hand Unit was a 1960s vibrator which had the bonus of offering internal stimulation as well as external pleasure. It also had different speeds, so this was one of the first ‘modern’ vibes that we’ve come to know so well today. Like most vintage vibrators, it was advertised as primarily a massage aid to alleviate ailments like period pains and back pain, but the fact that it could be used internally kind of gave away its real purpose.