Early 20th century Revigator lauded radiation as 'cure all'


Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 12:40 a.m.
Q:Here are photos of a Revigator. It was made in San Francisco around the turn of the last century when radium was thought to be a cure all.
The print on the side of the last photo instructs the owner to fill with water every night and drink freely upon rising and retiring and clean with a stiff brush monthly. It has a radium pitchblend core and I have hung a Geiger counter into the jar and get a mild reading. A Geiger counter on the outside produces nothing over background.
You can see from the photos that the cover was damaged and repaired. Do you know where I can get any information on collector interest?
A:Yes indeed radium was thought to be a cure all during the early 20th century. There were numerous radioactive quack cures, as they are known, even radium suppositories. I found the exact item you have along with much more information at the Oak Ridge Associated Universities website. The following information about your Revigator comes from the site. I think your example would sell in the $200 range perhaps more on a good day.
The following is from the historical collection of quack cures at Oakridge. This and more can be found at http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/quackcures/quackcures.htm.
Users were provided the following printed instructions on the side of the jar: 1. Fill jar every night.
2. Use hydrant or any good water.
3. Drink freely when thirsty and upon arising and retiring. Average six or more glasses daily.
This was probably the most popular device developed in the United States to add radon to drinking water. Advertised by the company as "an original radium ore patented water crock," it sold in the hundreds of thousands between 1920 and the mid-1930s.
The jar itself was lined with radium-containing ore and was glazed on the outside and porous on the inside. Water inside the jar would absorb the radon released by decay of the radium. Depending on the type of water, the resulting radon concentrations would range from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand picocuries per liter.
As the brochure stated, "Results overcome doubts.
"The millions of tiny rays that are continuously given off by this ore penetrate the water and form this great HEALTH ELEMENT- RADIO-ACTIVITY. All the next day the family is provided with two gallons of real, healthful radioactive water . . . nature's way to health."
Considerable confusion persists about the correct pronunciation of "Revigator." The solution can be found in the question and answer section of a 1928 sales brochure of the Revigator Water Jar Company. The answer: "re-vig-a-tor. Accent on the vig."
Produced by the Radium Ore Revigator Company of San Francisco California.
  • n n Q:A few weeks ago, on your radio show, I believe you mentioned a business in Jacksonville that sells items salvaged from ships. I was driving and could not write it down and can find no similar listing in Jacksonville. I am sure my husband would dearly love many of the items available. Although I have waited too long for Christmas, he has a January birthday.
    A:The name of the business is Martifacts, Inc. They sell genuine marine collectibles that went down to the sea in ships. They do not have a retail store but sell their nautical items through a mail order catalog. Everything from navigation lights, portholes, fire nozzles, steering wheels, chronometers, binnacles, engine order telegraphs and more can be purchased, many of which make wonderful decorative items. To get their catalog, call them at (904) 645-0150 or email them at Martifacts@aol.com. Their website is www.martifacts.com.
    John Sikorski is an Ocala antiques dealer. He hosts a cal-in radio show, "Sikorski's Attic," on WUFT-FM (89.1 FM). It can be heard Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon. Send your questions to Sikorski's Attic, c/o The Gainesville Sun, 2700 SW 13th St., Gainesville FL 32608-2015; or e-mail absantique@aol.com.
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