Site icon Creative Electron – The X-ray People

Remember the Shoe-Fitting Machine?

We are looking at the early days of X-ray manufacturing, and we are going back to the 1920’s! We have two lovely antique x-ray machines here at our Creative Electron museum and we are excited to talk about them. Imagine trying on a fresh pair of your favorite shoes then sticking your foot into a machine to check the fitting and precision. Forget that! Imagine seeing your bones in an x-ray machine for the very first time! This fluoroscope changed the game for shoe stores, everyone wanted to get a good look at the fascinating view of the inside of their feet.


In 1920 Dr. Jacob Lowe demonstrated the medical device in a shoe retail convention, making this machine a must have gimmick for shoe stores. The machine consisted of a wooden structure with an x-ray tube at the bottom of a fluorescent screen (that converts x-ray photons into visible light) that showed the x-ray image. Because the machine was mostly made of wood, there was very little protection against radiation exposure. Reports show that salesmen were most affected by the radiation exposure. This led to the banning of the shoe-fitting machine during the late 1950’s. Pennsylvania was the first U.S. state to ban the machine in 1957, but by the 1970’s all machines were banned from the U.S.


As the beloved scientist Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Although the shoe-fitting machine had a semi-short life and was given the “boot” fairly quickly, it spread to the masses the idea of inspection without taking anything apart. This incredible idea discovered by Roentgen  in 1895 created the path to today’s medical and technological x-ray use. We owe it to this machine’s invention, as it helped in the creation of the safety measures and limits to the radiation exposures we receive today to prevent us from harm.


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