This is a booby-trap, or trip-wire firearm, and is attached to a solid
object, such as a door frame or tree trunk. A wire or string is
solidly affixed on one end, and the other is tied to the ring. When
someone walks into the wire, the weapon discharges.
The wire could also be attached to a door, and when the door is
opened, the firearm shoots whoever is entering the room.
Rob, on that last item...
I used to keep goats. That is almost identical to a "dis-budding" iron we
used to de-horn young kids. In fact, had I not been dawdling, I'd have
suggested that earlier. It's so close to what we used, it could be the
From what I've seen on researching disbudding irons, they are used in a
similar manner as cautery irons and could probably be used interchangeably.
The one on my site is from a doctors medical kit so I would lean towards it
being a cautery iron though I didn't see one like it on the web nor did I
see a disbudding iron like it but I did see some of each tool that were
close. Thanks for the info on the dehorning tool.
2569: I thought it was a cautery transformer, but now I can't imagine
why 6 terminals would be useful.
William Ansyl Phillips was known for making electrical resistance
material and railroad equipment. His partner, Frank Meeker Rumbold, was
editor of the Saint Louis Medical Journal. His practice specialized in
problems with the ears, nose, and throat.
Aha! It takes 6 terminals to attenuate headphones with a pair of
rheostats; otherwise, the frequency response would be uneven. This box
looks right for a doctor to stand behind a patient, feeding him tones of
diminishing volume as the patient signaled which side.
AFAIK, dentists didn't check hearing, but Phillips may also have
produced drilling equipment.
In 1858, "Scientific American" and the New York Tribune carried articles
about using electricity for dental anesthesia. In the 1859 Edinburgh
Medical Journal, J. Smith, MD, wrote about it. The patient would hold
one conductor and the other would be attached to the forceps. Smith
concluded that it didn't block pain but could have a placebo effect.
Forty years later, most dental offices had AC. In the mouth, perhaps
1ma at 10vac could provide a tingle. Perhaps the dentist used a drug
for extractions and added the light bulb and tingle for placebo effect.
It looks unsafe to hook up 110VAC to exposed terminals, but at least
they and the lamp terminals have plastic caps. The front terminals,
which the operator could easily touch when reaching for the knob, have
no plastic. That led me to believe the voltage was too low to feel with
the hand and the resistance too high for a metal tool to draw much of an
That led me to think it wasn't a motor control. I agree that it might
have been for needle pain.
You got me to look up dental drills. Electricity made it possible to
reach 3,000 rpm in 1914. Nowadays, it's often 400,000 for drilling and
40,000 for other tasks. I believe the electric ones have run on belts,
but now there are dremel motors that let a dentist change speeds in the
middle of a job.
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