James Graham and Gustavus Katterfelto in combat using electrotherapy machines as weapons. Etching, 1783.

17 March 1783
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James Graham and Gustavus Katterfelto in combat using electrotherapy machines as weapons. Etching, 1783. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark. Source: Wellcome Collection.

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Two of the most colourful entrepreneurs of Georgian London are shown in combat: on the left the Scot James Graham and on the right the Prussian Gustavus Katterfelto. Both are shown using the fashionable electro-therapeutic machinery as part of their restorative and edifying products, Graham in sex-therapy and Katterfelto in the marvels of nature. Graham (left), in profile to the right, is standing on an E.O. table (similar to a roulette wheel), circular and surrounded by the letters E.O. (his establishment in Pall Mall was used for gambling on E.O. tables). He stands astride a long phallic electrical conductor, supported on a vase-shaped electrical insulator; each foot rests on a glass insulator. The conductor is inscribed 'Prime conductor, gentle restorer largest in the world', and the insulator supporting it is inscribed 'insulated'. In his left hand Graham holds up a phial or cylinder inscribed 'Medicated tube', he points at Katterfelto, saying, "That round vigour! that full-toned juvenile virility which speaks so cordially and so effectually home to the female heart, Conciliating its favour & friendship, and rivetting its Intensest affections away thou German maggot killer, thy fame is not to be compar'd to mine". He wears a physician's full-curled wig, a ruffled shirt, and a laced waistcoat

At Graham's feet stands a duck, on a label coming from its beak are the words "Quack. Quack. Quack", and a thistle indicating his Scottish origin. Other objects on the platform are the model of a cannon inscribed 'Coelestial musick' and two jars, one inscribed 'Leyden vial charg'd with load stones aromatic spices, &c. &c. &c'; the other 'Tin foil or antidote'

Above the further side of Graham's table (left) appear the heads and shoulders of two gigantic porters who were part of Graham's establishment. One (left) labelled Gog stands full-face, a placard round his neck: 'Temple of Health & of Hymen', the name of Graham's establishment at Schomberg House, Pall Mall, in allusion to his 'celestial bed' for the cure of sterility. The other footman, 'Magog', is in profile to the right. Attached to the wall above their heads is a stuffed alligator inscribed 'Cured of the dropsey & gout in the stomach'. Beneath this is a shelf, on it are a pestle and mortar, a bust, perhaps of Galen, and a monkey seated in profile to the right holding up a phial in imitation of Graham

Katterfelto's stage is a flimsy rectangular structure supported on thin planks, with cross planks, one decorated with a skull and cross-bones, the other by insects, &c. (a butterfly, centipede, moth, and worm). He crouches over a cylindrical conductor supported on a pillar, similar to, but not identical with, that of his rival; it is inscribed, 'Positively charg'd'; his feet rest on the base of its pillar, a trident on its other end touches a barrel-shaped electrostatic generator which is being turned by a devil with horns and breasts, who says, "Away with it my dear son I'll find fire eternally for you". Katterfelto embraces his electrical conductor with one arm, while his right hand points at Graham; sparks come from his thumb, forefinger, and wig, from a spike on the front of his conductor, and also drop from his chin. He is saying "Dare you was see de vonders of the varld, which make de hair stand on tiptoe, Dare you was see mine tumb and mine findgar, fire from mine findger and feaders on mine tumb - dare you was see de gun fire viddout ball or powder, dare you was see de devil at mine A[rs]e-- O vonders! Vonders! Vonderfull vonders!"

The chain of sparks from Katterfelto's chin drops on to the touch-hole of a toy cannon at his feet so as to fire it in the direction of Graham. His attitude and profile express intense excitement, and his whole person appears charged with electricity; the hair on his forehead stands up, his long pigtail queue flies out behind him as do his coat-tails. Other objects on his platform, besides the electrical appliance which he is grasping, the devil's generator and the cannon, are a Leyden jar, a small rectangular box inscribed 'Arcanum sublimum' and 'Mask'd battery', a toy windmill, a square bottle inscribed 'Tinctr Aurum Vivae', a thunder-house, raised above its base, inscribed 'Thunder house', a bag or small sack inscribed 'Aurora Borealis', and an insect resembling a scorpion (one of the wonders of nature). Beneath the platform is a 'Reservoir for dead insects destroy'd by Dr Katterf[elto]'; insects are indicated carved on the plank


[London] (227 Strand) : W. Humphrey, 17 March 1783.

Physical description

1 print : etching ; platemark 24.7 x 34.8 cm


The quacks. ...


The description above is indebted to the British Museum catalogue, loc. cit., with variations

References note

British Museum, Catalogue of political and personal satires, vol. V, London 1935, no. 6325

Exhibitions note

Exhibited in "Seduction and Celebrity: The Spectacular Life of Emma Hamilton" at the National Maritime Museum, London, 1 November 2016 - 1 April 2017
Exhibited in "Medicine Man" at Wellcome Collection, 15 April - 7 October 2019


Wellcome Collection 20790i



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