An exciting addition to the Henry Forman Atkinson collection
An almost century-old dental X-ray machine offers a fascinating glimpse into the past of the dental profession.
It is often revealing to look at the past in order to get a sense of the excitement of the innovations of a new era. This year, the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum received a remarkable gift that helps us tell the story of the X-ray machine in dentistry.
The Ritter Model A was a cutting-edge dental X-ray machine introduced in 1920 and manufactured until the 1930s, when a safer, updated model was introduced. It features an extendable and multi-directional arm – a design that made it the most efficient piece of equipment available at the time.
The machine greatly facilitated the use of X-rays in dentistry and improved the diagnosis of dental problems. The Ritter Model A in our collection has the accompanying operating manual, ‘Ritter Dental X-ray Machine Directions for Installation and Operation’, which clearly explains with illustrations how to position and use the device. It also includes a small booklet of tables and useful information for X-ray workers.
In 1924, Ritter acquired the company Arnold Bieber AG in Durlach, Germany, and initially retained the name Ritter-Bieber AG. The business produced equipment for dentists within the European market and was renamed Ritter AG in 1927.
The transformer on this device is labelled: ‘Ritter X-Ray Transformer manufactured by Ritter AG Durlach/Baden, Type A’. The gauges were made by Roller-Smith Co. Bethlehem PA, USA. The gauge bears the name of the maker, D.C. Milliamperes, with the instruction to ‘Never use more than 10 Millilamps’, Ritter, Type TD.
The machine was acquired by Dr David Spall in March 1962 from Dr Johnson, a dentist practicing at 1 Mount Street, West Perth. Dr Johnson purchased it new in the late 1920s and believed it was the first X-ray machine of its type in Western Australia. There is a similar piece in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
Dr Spall gifted the X-ray machine to the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum in May 2022. It is an impressive looking piece of equipment in wooden casing, with brass gauges that represent a different era of materials and craftsmanship. The Ritter Dental X-ray machine is on display at the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum.
Dr. Jacqueline Healy
Director, Faculty Museums
Ritter Dental X-ray machine 1925
metal, wood and other materials
Gift of David Spall HFA4095
Ritter-Bieber AG (estab. 1924) Ritter Dental X-ray Machine Directions for Installation and Operation 1925
23.5 x 15.0 cm (manual)
10.0 x 6.5 cm (booklet)
Gift of David Spall HFA4096