Caroline Lieffers
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‘Happiness and usefulness increased’
Consuming ability in the antebellum artificial limb market
in Disability and the Victorians
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‘Passing’ was an objective of the prosthetic limb developed by Benjamin Franklin Palmer. Palmer produced the first patented leg in New Hampshire and he gradually developed a worldwide following for a device that became a must-have accessory for those who wished to blend back into society following the loss of a limb. Palmer aligned his invention with medical progress, but he was also adept at marketing the benefits of his prosthetics in both practical and aesthetic terms. The prosthesis was able to merge with the body, making the wearer ‘whole’ again, physically and mentally, and it could facilitate masculine ideals of sociability, labour and business success. International marketing of his invention created a following for a device that was ‘conspicuously inconspicuous’ and demonstrated that Victorian values and ideals were not limited to Britain and its empire.

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Disability and the Victorians

Attitudes, interventions, legacies


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