A selection of images from High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910) by champion of electro-therapeutics Samuel Howard Monell, a physician who the American X-Ray Journal cite, rather wonderfully, as having “done more for static electricity than any other living man”.
Although the use of electricity to treat physical ailments could be seen to stretch back to the when the ancient Greeks first used live electric fish to numb the body in pain, it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries – through the work of Luigi Galvani and Guillaume Duchenne – that the idea really took hold.
Monell claims that his high frequency currents of electricity could treat a variety of ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression, and hysteria.
Although not explicitly delved into in this volume, the treatment of this latter condition in women was frequently achieved at this time through the use of an early form of the vibrator (to save the physician from the manual effort), through bringing the patient to “hysterical paroxysm” (in other words, an orgasm).
These days electrotherapy has been widely accepted in the field of physical rehabilitation, and also made the news recently in its use to keep soldiers awake (the treatment of fatigue also being one of Monell’s applications).
Here in the early 21st century, many parks and zoos offer motorized scooters for people who can’t or would rather not walk around.
But it’s far from a new concept, as you can see in this photo from 1918.
The December 1918 issue of Electrical Experimenter magazine included this description of the “electric roller chair” newly available at the Bronx Zoo:
Pleasure can now be mixed with knowledge at the New York Zoo by those who go there to study the animals. No more will it be necessary to walk miles upon miles to study all the exhibits on display in the greatest menagerie in America. Just get your electric roller chair — make believe you are on the board-walk at Atlantic City — and see all that is worth seeing in Bronx Park.
A twist of the hand lever and away you spin on your trip to see the lions, polar bears, giraffes, and monkeys.
A storage battery concealed within the car body furnishes the electric current to actuate the motor which propels the vehicle.
Electric headlights are provided for night travel as well as an electric siren to warn pedestrian traffic.
Throughout the 1920s the Harley-Davidson Big Twin was a direct descent from the original “Model One” of 1905 and the successor 1911 V-twin model.
Then in 1930 Bill Harley introduced the first full makeover of these earlier designs with the 74 cubic inch side-valve VL model.
While an improvement over previous Big Twins, the VL didn’t fully satisfy Chief Engineer Harley. By the 1930s, the rapidly improving highway system, higher octane gasoline, and riders’ expectations were all racing ahead of what the desperately under-oiled and over-heated VL side-valve engine could deliver.
In this scenario and within the larger drama of the Great Depression Bill Harley brought forth the finest achievement of his career: the 1936 Model EL — or “61 OHV” — more commonly known today as the Knucklehead.
Of the many motorcycle engineers America had seen by the 1930s, Bill Harley’s (Pictured above) experience ran the deepest and was most sustained.
The engineering department at Harley-Davidson was his world and separated from other parts of the factory by a locked door. Even if you got through that you still had to pass under the watchful gaze of Mr. Harley’s personal secretary, Joe Geiger, who was in charge of all drawings and records and who scrutinized anyone requesting entry into this inner sanctum of American motorcycle design.
The drafting room was connected to Mr. Harley’s office and he could observe it through a large plate glass window. His office — filled with experimental parts and drawings — was likened to “a mother’s bedroom overlooking the nursery of her children.”
This was where Mr. Harley felt most content and at home in the plant. This is where he communicated with his team of engineers and draftsmen and where he appointed tasks, suggested changes, approved work, and put his own hand to the drawing board.
During the Knucklehead’s developmental stage Bill Harley was also a frequent visitor to the experimental department where he consulted with foreman Ed Kieckbusch and observed this masterpiece of design come into being with more attention and care lavished upon it than any other motorcycle in the history of the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
On the 1936 EL model or 61 OHV Bill Harley invested the cumulative experience of a lifetime in an outstanding and even radical design. Not that he didn’t have plenty of help because by the 1930s the engineering and experimental departments included plenty of talented guys who had grown up with the motorcycle just like Bill Harley and the Davidsons had done.
But it was Mr. Harley who called the shots on the Knucklehead project and approved everything on it. Almost certainly it would not have developed like it did without him.
The extent of William S. Harley’s contributions to the 1936 EL can be seen in the three patents covering the model and that were issued in his name and assigned to the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
These include: “Instrument Mounting” (2,091,682), “Oil Tank and Battery Assembly” (2,109,316), and recirculating “Lubrication System” (2,111,242).
These patents show the extent of Bill Harley’s creative thinking and prove that the “Sixty-One” was his baby along with its bored and stroked 74 OHV big brother that was introduced in 1941, just two years before his passing.
The Harley Legacy
From the Knucklehead’s first unveiling in late 1935, a new era in American motorcycling was born.
This, the age of performance, is still with us. With easy breathing overhead valves, a generous reliable lubrication system, and a look unmatched in mechanical beauty anywhere, the American rider discovered a motorcycle in the 61 EL Knucklehead that could go a thousand miles in a day provided the rider did his part.
In 1937, Joe Petrali’s Daytona Beach speed record and Fred Ham’s 24 hour endurance record both accomplished on 61 OHVs nailed down this reputation for performance and durability for all time.
The 61 OHV was the last completely new motorcycle designed by and under the auspices of William S. Harley and built by the original four founders of the Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
This model would be successful beyond their wildest dreams and in a stunning parallel the 1936 Knucklehead equalled and perhaps surpassed the importance of Bill Harley’s original 1905 Model One.