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January 31, 2021

William Roentgen Demonstrates X-ray Machines at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, 1898

In the late 19th century, X-rays set America’s imagination ablaze. Only three years after its discovery by William Roentgen, the mysterious radiation went on display in this free-standing pavilion at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Here, X-ray machines let attendees glimpse the interiors of everyday objects as well as their own bodies, blissfully unaware the devices were zapping them with 1,500 times as much radiation as contemporary X-ray machines. Even when their hair fell out, they embraced the rays as an early – and effective – depilatory.

The Collections of the Omaha Public Library


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