Tucked away in the back of a New Bedford antique store is a very interesting piece of medical history that could certainly be a conversation piece in any SouthCoast living room or doctor’s office.

New Bedford Antiques at the Cove, located on West Rodney French Boulevard in the bottom corner of the Kilburn Mill, is always full of interesting items. That’s especially true for the large furniture section with very unique furnishings, which is where you will find this “light box.”

Electric light baths were something pushed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who became famous for his holistic treatments offered up at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan in the late 1800s and early 1900s (and later, along with his brother Will, for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes).

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The idea behind an electric light bath is the concept of phototherapy – using light to treat medical disorders. Dr. Kellogg believed both the light and the heat emitted from electric light bulbs could have a healing effect on the human body.

Light baths never really took off in the United States outside of the sanitariums that popped up in the wake of the holistic health movement, but they did gain popularity in Europe, especially with the upper class, and there was even a light bath on the Titanic.

So how did an electric light bath cabinet come to be in a New Bedford antique store?

Chances are, it came from the Acushnet Sanitarium, or one of the other nearby sanitariums that popped up around the turn of the 20th century. The Acushnet San opened in the early 1900s and this advertisement for it directly mentioned that electric light baths were available there.

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo

The best part about this light box? According to the tag on it at the antique store, it still works.

Considering how much light therapy – although in a much more evolved form from the incandescent bulbs of Dr. Kellogg's time – is still in use today, maybe it's worth a shot.

Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media
Tim Weisberg/Townsquare Media

So if you want to try out the potential benefits of phototherapy in your own home, you can take the box home for just $795 – although with the way the electric bills are going up across the SouthCoast these days, it might be a pretty expensive form of therapy.

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