The Rejuvenator

20 Jan

Dr. Wilbur Williams was one of the leading medical electrotherapists in San Francisco by 1926. That was the year he happened to meet a strange man named Omar Blake at a medical convention held in that city.

What was the large, athletic-looking fellow without a medical degree or practicing license doing among hundreds of physicians from all over California? Wilbur found that this friendly non-professional was not reluctant to relate his background or explain what he was doing at this crowded conclave of doctors.

“I have worked at chief chemist for a major brewery down in Los Angeles for a number of years,” smiled the sociable man in a dark blue serge suit. “The company there benefited from several innovations that I made and that they patented for themselves. My present occupation and interest lies in developing an instrument for electrical treatment and therapy that an average individual can apply and use on their own, without professional medical supervision and instruction of any kind.

“I have studied most of the important books and research reports in the field and know quite a lot about how physicians apply electro-magnetic energy in their practice. My goal is to make such knowledge and methods available for the general population to their own pains, ills, and health problems. I am attending this great gathering in order to locate physicians interested in the invention that I have named the Rejuvenator. I foresee it becoming a mass instrument, almost a weapon, in the battle for health and human longevity.”

“How interesting!” grinned the doctor. “I myself happen to be a specialist in the use of electrical current in problems of pain and in healing from surgical wounds. We must get together and talk. My office is not too far from where we are, here at the Mark Hopkins. Would you like to see me there some afternoon, I can give you my address. It’s on Kearny Street.”

Blake had grown ecstatic at his success. “I intend to drop in to see you at the first opportunity after this convention, Dr. Williams,” he said, his milky eyes sparkling with joy.

The first thing that Wilbur did was to take his visitor on a tour of the several rooms where he kept his therapeutic apparatuses and machines.

He showed Omar the expensive high frequency physician’s cabinet that had only been introduced for sale the year before. Then he took him into the chamber where he had a hyperstatic transformer and Tesla coil that he had been using for a decade.

“This is my General Electric Diathermy Machine,” pointed out the doctor. Over on the other side is an older single pole electro-therapeutic cabinet with high frequency coils that I aim to replace very soon with a new Toepler Holtz Static Induction Machine that I can use in treating patients with serious nerve disorders.

“All of my equipment operate on motor-driven controls and can be precisely calibrated for optimal effect.”

The pair went into the physician’s private consultation office and sat down there.

“I am most impressed with the degree to which everything I have seen is up-to-date and efficient. You must have a very successful practice, Doctor, to be able to afford all this modern machinery.”

Wilbur seemed embarrassed by such praise and flattery. “Yes, everything here was expensive, but I have always felt an obligation to do the best that I can for those who suffer from health problems.”

“Are you interested it what modern science can do to maximize human longevity, my friend? Although I do not have a medical degree or the professional experience that you and other physicians enjoy, it has been my dream for a number of years to expand the life span of ordinary human beings to the highest degree possible. That has been my primary motive for my work in developing what I have named my Rejuvenator.

“My deepest belief has become the still untapped possibilities within electrotherapy for healing illnesses as completely as can be done, with the aim of making the human life as long as is practical and feasible.

“No one living today, in 1926, can predict how many years longevity can be stretched and prolonged. My reason for developing the Rejuvenator is to attempt to attain life as close to immortal as I can.” Omar drew a deep, long breath, his eyes on the narrow face of the shorter, smaller physician. The latter’s sapphire eyes appeared to brighten and dilate because of some inner thought occurring.

Omar proceeded to speak as if giving a prepared and rehearsed speech or lecture.

“I truly believe that our health and well-being has an electrical foundation. In most types of illness except those caused by germs, there exists some imbalance in the body’s electrical charge. I call this idea my electronic theory of life and I wrote a book about it that I have hopes of publishing.

“What a patient needs in order to have his health restored is a rebuilding of his natural balance of electrical energy. That is the reason that I built and developed my special Rejuvenator. It allows a sick person to treat his own body in privacy at home. There is only a small voltage of electricity produced and it is focused upon the affected area by the patient himself. The apparatus is easy to use, with its specially shaped electrodes. The patient can use these as a sort of comb to apply to the top of the head in order to affect the brain and the lower body.

“This apparatus, when used continuously and correctly, produces nearly miraculous effects on a person’s state of health. From being in imbalance, he or she returns to the natural, wholesome state of balance once more.”

The two men stared at each other in silence for a short time.

Finally, Wilbur made a request in an overwhelmed state of mind.

“I would like to see and examine this apparatus of yours,” he succeeded in saying. “Could you bring it here, to my office, so that I might run some tests on it with certain patients?”

Omar promised to bring it there late the following afternoon.

“I am amazed at the size of the Rejuvenator,” marveled Wilbur. “Somehow, I imagined that it was bigger and more complicated than it is. But now I have a request to make of you, Omar.”

“What can it be?” asked the suddenly surprised inventor.

“I want to connect my own head to those comb-like electrodes and see how it feels to receive their electrical current through my body. In other words, I wish to be treated as a sort of guinea pig for the purpose of testing this machine of yours,” smiled Wilbur with self-satisfaction.

Omar had his experimental subject sit down beside the table where the Rejuvenator rested and connected the ends of the long electrodes to the head of the physician. Then, he began to set and manipulate the dials and switches on the control panel of his invention. “It should not be very long before you start to sense an electronic rebalancing going on inside your body, my good man,” he said, his milky eyes full of assurance and confidence.

The test was over in a surprisingly short time. All through it, Wilbur was able to maintain a poker face that revealed no reaction. Only after the other removed the electrode wires from the top of his skull did the doctor say anything.

“It made me fill that I was gaining some valuable energy force into myself,” announced Wilbur. “There was no pain involved for me, none whatsoever. In fact, I felt strengthened and more at ease than before. It was an encouraging, a positive experience for me. I feel a lot better for having undergone this, and I am certain that it would be beneficial for patients, especially for those of them with nervous conditions and complaints.” The physician gazed at Omar Blake with a wide, radiant smile on his thin lips. “Yes, I think that this Rejuvenator can be of enormous help with many of my patients with neurasthenia and other illnesses. I am sure that the moderate amount of voltage will be doing them no harm, but only good.”

“I am glad to hear you say that,” replied the other. “My hope is that you will encourage your patients to learn how to treat themselves and come to wish to own their own Rejuvenator. The cost is a moderate one and I can obtain new ones from the company I authorized to manufacture the machine for me.”

“When they hear how enthusiastic I am about this form of therapy,” declared Wilbur, “my fellow physicians here in San Francisco will be eager for their own patients with varied illnesses to avail themselves of this wonderful rebalance of electricity within the body.”

Omar grew nearly delirious with his success in selling the concept and application of his medical invention.

The doctor was amazed at the speed with which he came to accept the beneficial use of the Rejuvenator.

There is something marvelous in its concentration and focusing of electric force, he was compelled to admit to himself.

Neither Omar nor I know the full secret of how it affects and influences the health of a human being. Yet its benefit cannot be denied. There is something inscrutable in how it brings about a major change in the condition of a person who undergoes treatment with it.

Wilbur began to use the Rejuvenator with certain patients he thought would obtain benefit from its electrical current. Their condition began to improve immediately.

In a short time, he arranged meetings between each of these patients and the man who could obtain a personal Rejuvenator for each of them.

“I will show and teach the individual patient how to connect the electrodes to themselves and modulate the quantity of electricity,” Omar told the physician who was formally in charge of the process.

“It will be best when each of them becomes able to apply his own practical therapy,” added Wilbur with a grin.

An increasing number of patients received initial treatments with the Rejuvenator in the doctor’s office, then convinced that they should purchase their own apparatus to use on themselves at home.

Week by week, the group of independent users of private apparatuses grew in numbers.

One afternoon, Omar made an unexpected proposal to his new partner.

“I have been contemplating a very radical idea, Wilbur. Up until now, all of the Rejuvenators in use have come from a single manufacturing plant on the East Coast. They have had to be shipped out here to San Francisco and the rest of California.

“What if the geographic situation was different? What would you think if a plant that made our machines existed out here on the West Coast? I believe that such a situation could greatly simplify what we are doing in teaching patients to treat themselves with their own machines. We should become able to organize the recruitment of thousands more users and owners of Rejuvenators if they were produced right here in our own region. What do you think of this idea, Wilbur?”

The latter furrowed his forehead in heavy thought.

“But what company would be willing to invest its resources and take the financial risks involved in such a business venture?” inquired the electro-therapist.

“I think that I have the solution: you and I must organize the enterprise by ourselves. Of course, as more physicians become convinced of the effectiveness of our Rejuvenator, they should also be willing to participate with investment funds and orders for their patients.

“The dream that I envision is of a growing army of doctors and patients involved in the making and the distribution of the machines. We will be able to advertise in the San Francisco newspapers and organize something resembling a popular, mass movement oriented around our brand of electro-therapy. What do you say, Wilbur?

“The prospects ahead of us are astounding and breath-taking.”

The doctor replied with a single nod of his head.

The pair of partners located a lawyer on Powell Street who drew up the incorporation documents for their manufacturing company.

Wilbur himself volunteered to invest twenty thousand dollars in the venture from his own savings.

“I am sure that I can convince several of my professional colleagues to come in with us, Omar. They are already enthusiastic about what the Rejuvenator can accomplish for many kinds of patients with a variety of different ills. There will be no difficulty at all in convincing many to them to come in as investors on the manufacturing plant that we will soon be constructing and equipping.

“We shall be successful in collecting what will be needed to begin the West Coast production of Rejuvenators.”

Omar appeared to be intoxicated with joy. “I have already located an empty brick building that we can use over in Oakland. You must go there with me and see the place for yourself, Wilbur.”

The following Saturday, the doctor and the inventor traveled across the bay on the Oakland ferry and looked over the vacant site with a local real estate agent.

Omar Blake composed a short brochure on his theory of electronic health that was aimed at popularizing his invention, the Rejuvenator.

In it, he claimed that treatments with the electrical apparatus could deal with and alleviate a long number of physical illnesses. Among those named were asthma, bronchitis, gout, insomnia, deafness, neuritis, psoriasis, infantile paralysis, tuberculosis, rheumatism, sciatica, and neurasthenia.

Wilbur was taken aback by the audacity of these claims. “Are we going too far beyond the limits of what can scientifically be established through research and experience?” he asked the inventor who was now the major promoter of the device. “Shouldn’t we be much more careful in all that we claim?”

“It will take many years for the full establishment of our primary claim having to do with prolonged life. In the meantime, I think that we are justified in dealing with specific, identifiable illnesses and complaints.” He stared into the sapphire eyes of Wilbur. “Don’t be so concerned, my friend. All the claims in this brochure are going to be established by use of the Rejuvenator by hundreds of thousands, and eventually by millions.

“The future of modern medicine lies in electrotherapy, doesn’t it?”

Wilbur discovered himself unable to rebut such an argument.

The two men wore white silk summer suits and round jipijapa straw hats. They boarded the large boat at the Ferry Building and crossed over the bay to Oakland. There was little talk between them, mostly about their plans to equip the plant with machinery and to hire skilled workers.

After disembarking, they took an electric street car to the site of their future Rejuvenator factory. At present, they entered the premises and looked over the still empty interior. The pair were ready to leave and return to San Francisco, when a older man that Omar did not recognize but with whom Wilbur was familiar appeared at the entrance. The partners stopped and Dr. Williams made the introductions.

“Dr. Marcum, it is a genuine surprise to find you here in Oakland. This is an associate of mine whose name is Omar Blake.” He turned his face and his eyes on the one who had come there with him. “Omar, this is Dr. Joseph Marcum. He happens to be the President of the San Francisco Area Medical Association.”

Omar offered his hand and shook that of the head of the doctors, managing to remain smiling despite the shock of what appeared to be happening as the event unfolded.

All at once, Dr. Marcum, an imposing giant with piercing almond eyes, started to speak to Wilbur in a threatening tone as if the third figure was not present and listening.

“I came here today to have a look at this building that I understand you have purchased in order to turn into a production facility for a new electrotherapeutic mechanism. Reports have come to me from several reliable sources that you are using and involved with a highly speculative and unproven method of using electrical voltage for health treatment.

“I must give you warning, Wilbur, that numerous colleagues have sent me complaints about a brochure that you have helped to sponsor that makes fantastic, unsubstantiated claims of all sorts of cures.”

He glared at Wilbur with anger and indignation. “If you choose to continue on the path you are now on, there will be calls for disciplinary action against you, Wilbur. I don’t want to be forced to take desperate measures, but I fear that your continuation in the medical profession is at stake.

“Either quit claiming that you can prolong the life span by using electricity, or have your license taken away from you.

“If you are wise, you will heed this warning I am delivering to you.”

Having said his say, the big physician turned about and stalked off at a rapid, vigorous walking pace.

Wilbur and Omar turned to each other. Both were too excited to discuss what they had just heard from the executive medical authority.

“Let’s go back to San Francisco,” finally proposed Wilbur. “We can better talk about the situation away from here.”

The two partners stood at the deck railing of the ferry, looking out at the late afternoon scene of the great bay. They watched freighters and steamers pass inland and out to sea. Only as the carrier neared the shore of the metropolis did Omar ask the question gnawing at him.

“What do you plan to do after getting that ultimatum? Are you going to drop out and quit what we have started?”

Wilbur waited several moments before answering “No.” Then he paused before explaining his reply.

“If we look back at the history of medical science, it has always been difficult to open new areas or introduce new methods. My profession has always been one that worships the conventional, the traditional, and the socially acceptable. Pioneers have always been shunned, ignored, excluded, and worse. This story, at present in San Francisco, is not new. Not at all.

“The conformists in medicine will label me a madman and you an uneducated charlatan. We will be made to pay a very heavy price for what we think and believe.

“I am not afraid of losing my position and license for what I know to be true. Let them call me an adventurer and you a speculator. We shall both survive, and the Rejuvenator will win final victory in the future.”

“I am proud to be associated with you, Wilbur,” whispered the other in a barely audible tone.

In the last month of 1925, Dr. Wilbur Williams had his medical license taken away by the California state medical authorities in Sacramento.

He moved to Oakland early in 1927 in order to carry forth the plans he had drafted with Omar Blake to manufacture the Rejuvenator there.

The dream that the two men shared crashed and collapsed when they were forced into bankruptcy in 1928 because of the lack of demand for their electrotherapeutic instrument. The medical journals throughout the country castigated their claims as unsubstantiated quackery.

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