Home:  Body Care: CARBON ARC SUN RAY LAMP, 1950's


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A Health Ray Sun Lamp that uses two Carbon rods connected to the mains via a cooking element, this acts as a safety load.

When the carbons touch they create an arc of light that is very high in Ultra Violet light, making it ideal for a sun lamp. This unit would not only produce lots of smoke but the rods would continually need adjusting, as they quickly deteriorate when in use and burn away.

Your comments:

  • I also had sun ray treatment at the M.R.I. In Denmark st. Manchester in the fifties. Apparently a sickly child and anaemic, I was sent for this treatment weekly for now long I don’t recall. Issued with metal goggles and stripped down to knickers we all sat on the bench. As an adult I now have fibromyalgia, sjorgrens disease and arthritis, autoimmune disorders and all of which could have been triggered by the treatment.
    .......... Susan williams , Coffs Harbour Australia, 22nd of February 2022

  • I have memories of attending Aberdeen Children's Hospital twice weekly for sessions in front of the sun lamp. Wearing only my pants, along with several other children we sat in a circle wearing green goggles. I am 67 now and have been a life long asthma sufferer and I can still smell the odour the lamp gave off. I was a sickly child from 18 months old and this was one of the treatents which would benefit my health. Improvements in asthma medication over the decades meant the the sessions in front of the sun lamp were of short duration.
    .......... Kathryn Kearney, Stonehaven, Kincardine, Aberdeenshire, 13th of November 2021

  • Again like everyone else I remember the smell and sitting in my knickers wearing green goggles in a circle with other children -about 5. In Portsmouth. I always had a tan but have no idea what it was for
    .......... Lynda P, Portsmouth UK, 10th of December 2020

  • I had this sunray treatment for a persistent dry cough
    in the 50's. We went to the clinic and sat round the lamp with goggles. We were told not to touch the goggles or we could be blinded. I had the lamp shining on my chest.
    The weird thing is that if I eat oily fish it reminds me of the smell of the sun.
    I am sure i have had a faint sense if the same smell even one sunny morning as the sun was coming up.
    .......... Jill, Brighton, East Sussex, UK, 23rd of August 2020

  • We bought one of these devices in 1960s.
    My memory of it is that there were separate sets of carbon sticks - Infra Red for medical and Ultra Violet for cosmetic/tanning.
    After some use of the UV my fair facial skin developed very permanent brown patches like large age spots, I was about 25.
    Fortunately, after a desperate search I came across a skin lightening paste (now banned in UK because of its hydroquinone content) that successfully faded the patches.
    .......... SC, Essex, 24th of February 2020

  • I remember having this treatment in the living room when I was a young child in the 1950’s. I think my eldest brother underwent this treatment with me. We would sit in front of the ‘sun box’ in just our knickers and goggles! I don’t know if it did any good or not!
    .......... Linda Roy, Lincoln, 23rd of October 2019

  • I too remember as my mum called it “sun ray” treatment I was quite a sickly baby/toddler and contract some virus at first thought it was rheumatic fever, then polio never did ask her what it was. I remember it was at Morrill Street clinic off Holderness Road in Hull. Can remember the white tiled room a small wooden stool and the dark swimming like goggles to protect my eyes and the smell from the lamps. No wonder of my baby photo are off the child with a permanent all your round tan.
    .......... Lynn Brattan, Hull, East Yorkshire , 1st of February 2019

  • I had one of these lamps during the 1950's and 60's, I may even still have it somewhere although last time I saw it it was quite rusty.
    They were a cheaper version of Sun ray lamp, sold in competition to the Philips sun-ray lamps (which did not use an open carbon arc).
    The element was used as a ballast for the carbons and also provided infra heating. The carbons would be touched together, (there is a knob on the back of the unit to do this) and spark, then opened to allow an arc to form in a small gap between the ends of the carbons. There was no automatic feed on the carbons so you soon had to adjust the gap as the carbons burnt away.
    Cinemas also used carbon arc lamps back in those days but were much more powerful and had motorized feeding on the carbons.
    The sun lamps would run with a 5amp fuse I think the element was around 500 watts.
    They were not very powerful on their own, but of cause if several were used together at a treatment center there would be more potential for skin damage.
    .......... John Leach, John Leach, 26th of December 2018

  • In the 1950s I might have been 6 or 7 my mum used to take me to the clinic in Edlington Doncaster for Sunray treatment twice a week, it is true you never forget that horrid smell and those goggles, I don't even know why I had to go, not even sure if it did any good, I'm now 67 and still to this day don't know why has children we was subject to this treatment other than being Guinea pigs for what ever reason.
    .......... Georgette Fox, Doncaster , 20th of May 2018

  • I can remember visiting East Ham Clinic in the early 1950s when I was about 10. As someone above said, the smell and the noise stays with you. I was sent for this 'treatment' because I had weak ankles. I am not aware of any mole problems but having read other comments I am going to have a thorough check.
    .......... James Bird, Rayleigh, Essex, U.K., 12th of July 2016

  • As a young child I was treated with ultraviolet light
    to cure ringworm of the scalp. I was curious to find out
    if I should be worried about the effects.
    .......... S. Bradley, Oregon City U.S.A., 21st of March 2016

  • In the earl 1950s in Indiana, USA we had one of the carbon-arc lights. In winter we (3 boys) would get Saturday night treatments amounting to 15 minutes; 7 minutes front and back in underwear. I never was in the sun much but at 65 got melanoma which was caught early and cured/ excised. Dr said we get skin damage in first 20 years. After that means nothing.
    .......... John Kessler, Ft. Lauderdale, USA, 5th of December 2015

  • I lived in Glasgow and remember going for infra ray treatment a certain smell takes me back all we wore were our knickers and goggles up to now I have enjoyed good health being 71 not a lot of the previous generation even reached that
    .......... irene greenfield , troon ayrshire scotland, 2nd of December 2015

  • I attended a Clinic in Hull (Coltman Street) for Sun ray treatment in the 1940's-50's I can still smell the room (similar to the smell of a photocopier machine) I sat naked with other boys for ten minutes wearing rubber goggles. It was a scary experience for a young child.
    The treatment was, I was told, to give an extra dose of Vitamin D. I had been suffering with a TB lymphatic gland.
    .......... James Robinson, Cottingham; East Yorkshire; England, 14th of June 2015

  • As children in the mid 1940s, our mother used to take us to a sunray clinic in Blackpool. We stripped to our pants, wore goggles, and walked round and round under UV lamps, holding mother's hand. I can still vividly recall the smell of the lamps.
    I am now being treated for metastatic skin cancer following discovery of a malignant mole in the middle of my back. I feel this may be related to my sunray treatment as a child.
    .......... Patricia, Bristol, 20th of February 2015

  • I lived in Haslemere Surrey as a small child and remember being taken to have this treatment. I'm not just where we went possibly Guildford if it wasn't in Haslemere. I was probably around 4 years old. We sat around the big lamp in our underpants with green goggles on. Apparently the treatment was good for us and gave us sunlight for our bodies.
    .......... Wendy , Sparwood BC Canada, 25th of September 2014

  • I was sent for sun ray treatment weekly at the local clinic in Denton near Manchester.I was at infant school at the time in the early 1950's.Maybe 10 or 12 of us sat on benches in our knickers and underpants (boys and girls together)around one of the lamps in the room at the clinic.I remember the smell and the green goggles vividly. Now in my 60;s I have quite a bit of sun damage on my upper chest and quite a few large moles in that area and I do wonder if this is a result of the sun ray treatment.Judith Ridgway
    .......... MRS JUDITH RIDGWAY, DENTON ,MANCHESTER, 24th of November 2013

    .......... M EDWARDS, BRISTOL, 4th of September 2013

  • I have one even older still at my house .
    In the early 50's
    we to were made to sit in front of it every day as a health lamp.
    I have had breast cancer ??? wonder if a connection.
    .......... jill s, blackpool, 2nd of July 2013

  • My Father bought one of these, identical to the one illustrated.
    Myself and my younger sister and brother were "treated" with it for a limited time; which was strictly observed; about once a week. I used to suffer badly from ear infections and had extra treatment, as the heat used to ease my pain.
    I am now 73 years old and having regular treatment for Ultra Violet skin damage.
    I have never been a "sun worshipper" and as a serious recreational sailor always covered, regardless of comments from sun tanned fellow sailors.
    My Doctor says that damage was probably done as a child.
    Only this week, I remembered this machine and wondered if it may be responsible!
    .......... Mr Arthur L Rooks, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England., 30th of March 2012

  • My mother used this daily, 10 min. on her front and 10 min. on her back. She hoped, in smog-afflicted London, that it would help her general health as she had bronchitis regularly and a slipped disc for the best part of a year, which had been treated by a plaster cast being placed around her torso. The sun lamp was used in an attempt to build her up after that, I think.
    I don't recall smoke, though I do remember the buzzing noise and the knowledge that it was a slightly dangerous object and procedure.
    .......... Catherine, was London, 13th of November 2011

  • My family used this regularly over a period in the 1950s. I remember it was quite eerie. The room lights had to be out, and the carbons made a buzzing noise, and gave off a greenish light. We did wear goggles, and I dont remember having any bad effect at the time. My dad said, if I remember rightly, that we wouldnt get sunburnt as we were using infra red carbons, and not ultra violet. He claimed it helped the condition of the skin and made you healthier, I suppose in the way sunlight is supposed to. I have just remembered that the green light was due to the use of the goggles, which were green in colour. (I was under ten years old at the time of using this)
    .......... Linda Marshall, London, England, 24th of January 2010

  • A more dangerous and unhealthy appliance would be difficult to imagine ! I assume that you would at least have to wear goggles when using it.
    .......... Colin Carroll, Langford, Bedfordshire., 31st of October 2009

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