Growth Potential

It’s hard to imagine we’ll ever come up with another mystery artifact as unique and humorous as the one we posted today.

Our Facebook friends got a photo without the lettering visible so as not to provide any hints, but here we’ve posted the front-facing version. Does the word “THERMOCAP” give you any, er, headway?

Surprisingly, this cylindrical object does indeed sit atop the head. But what, oh what, could possibly be the purpose for placing it there? The answer is found in the age-old search to cure a vexing problem of humankind.

Yes, that’s right: Baldness.

Perhaps it will help to know that, along with a cord, socket, and light bulb (which would screw into the cap from the inside), this invention, circa 1925, used the heat of the bulb (the “thermo” part) to stimulate the hair follicles to grow. At least, that was the idea.

Images from "From Hippo fat to Vacuum Helmets, a History of Baldness Prevention"

Of course, that doesn’t explain why MHS owns such a priceless invention. In fact, this electrotherapy device represents one of the nearly 1,900 objects in our vast Central Maine Power collection. Donated to the Society in 2002, the CMP collection includes a wealth of artifacts related to rural electrification generally, but also a slew of early electrical equipment, appliances, and other gadgets intended to make life easier and more efficient when electricity was still in its early days.

Clearly, the Thermocap–made by the Allied Mercke Institutes, Inc., of New York–would fall into the “other” category. Advertisements for the product claimed that wearing the cap for fifteen minutes a day would allow the heat and blue light from the lamp inside to “stimulate circulation, cleanse clogged-up pores, and nourish dormant hair bulbs.”

No doubt this will come as a shock, but it doesn’t appear to have worked. However, the 1922 patent drawings–inventor: Alois Merke–are well worth a look. Download them here.

If you want to read about other wacky inventions designed to keep hair on our heads, check out “From Hippo Fat to Vacuum Helmets: A History of Baldness Prevention.”

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