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'Metallic Tractors', print, by James Gillray, London, England, 1801

‘Metallic Tractors’ is a caricature of a treatment better known as Perkins Tractors, named after its inventor, Elisha Perkins (1741-1799), an American physician. Two tapered rods made of different metals – normally brass and silver – were passed over the body and, it was claimed, drew out disease using electricity. The tractors were said to be charged from the natural electricity present in the user’s body. Perkins patented his invention in 1796. Despite claims that Perkin’s invention cured over five thousand people in England of various complaints, the treatment was widely discredited and was labelled by many as ‘quackery’. This print was etched by James Gillray (1757-1815), a British caricaturist.

Object number:

1980-909

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Glossary:

Glossary: quack

Pertaining to or characterised by, boasting and pretension; used by quacks; pretending to cure diseases; as, a quack medicine; a quack doctor.

Glossary: print

Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

Glossary: caricature

A representation that exaggerates certain features or characteristics to humorous effect.