Local News

April 16, 2014

Do you know what this is?



This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a Wabash Cautery Battery.

Dan Kalbach took a guess at the identity of the artifact. He wrote via email: “This is a "S.W.A.G"; Systematic Wild-Assed Guess, but it looks a lot like a blasting generator.  These were used to detonate the primers to ignite dynamite in mining operations.  The two posts towards the front would be hooked to wires running to the primer, and the larger post would have been pushed down to generate the voltage needed to set the primers off.  Again, just a 'SWAG'.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Wabash Cautery Battery

Nickel plated knobs set in an oak case with an intricately molded brass handle is hardly what anyone envisions as a battery today, but that is what this artifact is. Manufactured by Truax, Greene and Co. of Chicago, a medical supply company, it is a wet cell battery designed for use by doctors when treating patients.

This Wabash Cautery Battery contains two plates which when immersed in acid emit an electric current. The directions for mixing the acid are printed inside the lid of the container. The recipe is sufficient to create one charge or current for one treatment – the instructions suggest that several bottles are mixed so that the physician can have them on hand when needed.

Considering the era that this battery was made, it is not surprising that a doctor making house calls might want a source of electricity. This battery was not listed among the 120 pages of batteries in the 1893 catalog for Charles Truax’s company. A similar battery, of different manufacture but listed in the catalog as a Cautery Battery was to be used for electro therapy, cauterizing wounds and could also power a 4 watt light.

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