Pall Mall’s Magic Bed, 1779

Infertility was as large and distressing a problem in the late eighteenth century as it is today. However, the residents of London did not need to fear. Dr James Graham had a treatment available in his clinic, guaranteed to produce happy, bouncing babies who would grow up to be more wonderful ‘in mental as well as in bodily endowments than the present puny race of christians.’

As a couple came into his clinic, they couldn’t help but notice its main feature: the Celestial Bed.

For only £50 (£9,821.55 in 2020’s money), a couple would be able to access the ultimate baby-making experience. The 3x4m bed was stuffed with horses’ tails and scented with rose and lavender. If listening to live music played next door and checking their strategy in the mirror above their heads wasn’t sufficient inspiration for the couple, the headboard was electrified to hopefully provide strength to the nerves (and not third degree burns). A mechanism under the bed spouted ‘celestial fire’, and the same perfume allegedly used by the Sultan of Turkey to impress his harem was piped in. Should the purpose of the bed still be vague, Dr James had ‘Be fruitful. Multiply and Replenish the Earth’ engraved on the headboard too.

If you were cash-strapped, for only two guineas (£325.51) you could take a tour of the clinic as inspiration for decorating your own home. You could listen to the good doctor lecture on the benefits of electricity on human fertility, or gawk at the nude models posing as classical statues. If you wanted a souvenir, you could take home some fertility perfume.

Despite the popularity of his ideas, Dr Graham’s ‘Temple of Health’ closed after a few years. He re-emerges in the history books in 1784 in Edinburgh, this time claiming that the ultimate diet cure was to have a mud bath. You see, the body absorbs all it’s nutrients through the mud and you no longer need to eat. The good doctor claimed he survived for two weeks in this way! Sadly, this scheme did not take off either.

The last appearance of Dr Graham is 1794. He had, by this time, become a type of born-again Christian which he termed an OWL (‘Oh, Wonderful Lord’), and we know this as he signed his later letters ‘Owl’. One of the fine cures to ailments suggested by the Almighty was to strip naked in the middle of the street, but, alas, the law did not agree and Graham was arrested the same year.

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