Monday, August 15, 2005

Shoes that Glow in the Dark

Back in the good old days (in this case, 1920s-1950s) kids in shoe stores used to x-ray their own feet to make sure their shoes fit properly. By today's standards letting little Johnny wriggle his toes under a steady stream of radiation might seem a little imprudent, but these were the good old days. I mean, there's nothing worse than shoes that are too tight. What's a little radiation? It might even clear up the Athlete's Foot.

Until recently, I'd never actually seen the shoe store fluoroscopes, but they have one on display now in an exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum (alongside all sorts of other wacky medical gadgets and phrenological devices). Here's a shot I took of it (after masking and adding a drop shadow). Notice the little slot on the bottom where the kids put their feet. The main viewer is in the middle. The two on the sides are for other observers (presumably one for Mommy or Daddy and the other for Al Bundy: shoe salesman / radiologist).

The interesting story about this baby is that it was actually in use in a Madison, West Virginia department store until 1981. Once word got around that they are dangerous and illegal, the store turned the device over to the FDA.

The exhibit included this handy chart of the roentgens per hour this baby leaked out at various distances.


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