The Dimple-Maker


The dimple machine was invented in New York in the year 1936, by a female developer named Isabella Gilbert. Gilbert, along with countless other women, had a creative and entrepreneurial  drive when it came to fighting genetics and making women beautiful to the standards of the time period. Women had only gained an interest in this “engineered” beauty quite recently; this invention came about roughly 20 years after the invention of cosmetics. The late 1910’s along with the 20’s and 30’s really gave numerous examples of how women wanted to be beautiful, and not just beautiful as far as their clothing, but physically beautiful as far as their bodies and faces, and the dimple machine is just one of these examples.

The dimple maker also shows perhaps the lack of scientific knowledge of the time period; at least compared to today. There are multiple ads for the dimple maker, but none seem to mention the science behind the product. One ad even gives the story of a girl who had no friends at school. Boys didn’t even notice her, but after creating false dimples she became one of the popular girls in school. This shows that these products were not only aimed towards women but also young girls. These fictional narratives were very commonly used to sell products during the time period, however, the science behind the product was not a commonly used sales tool. Perhaps science was not quite as appealing to the customer, or perhaps there was no real science behind the product. I believe the latter may be the case.

When looking at products of the time period there was not much science behind them, they just seemed like they might work. I remember as a child having an annoying double chin, and trying to tie things around my head and under my chin to eventually see if my extra chin would go away. I didn’t know the science behind a double chin, it just seemed like it would work if kept doing it for a long enough period of time. Needless to say, it never worked, but my point is this “common sense” concept (rather than science) is appealing to the common person and sells extremely well even today. This idea leads to another question that is worth thinking about of which I do not have the answer to. Were most of these poor products developed to be sold to ignorant buyers, or were they created ignorantly by the developer? Although I cannot answer this question it should should always be thought about when looking at poorly developed products of the past. Was this product an awful invention? Or a brilliant business decision?

A final point to be made was that the medical association was against this product for multiple reasons. One reason simply argued that the product would not work, and the second reason was that it may cause cancer. This shows that their most definitely were intelligent people using science during the time period, and it also showed that cancer was a major fear in the 1930’s as it still is today. I am not sure how the medical association came to the conclusion that the dimple-maker may cause cancer, but still today we are warned on a daily basis of products that “may” cause cancer.

Bad Inventions: Dimple Maker

The Dolly Dimpler


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