History of the Magic Wand: A 50-Year Story

Posted by Andrew Schroeder on

The Hitachi magic wand vibrator is one of the most iconic pieces of sex toys there is. Popularly known as the Hitachi vibrator, although its real name is Magic Wand Original, is arguably the most successful vibrator for women out there. But what makes this toy stand out from the rest?

Those unfamiliar with the story of this toy will find it surprising that there’s quite a lot of history related to this sex toy. As a matter of fact, it first entered the market in the 1960s (yes, it is that old!). At first, they didn’t intend it as a personal massager for women’s clitorises. However, what they made as a simple muscle massager became so popular for its alternative use. In due course, the company Hitachi had to distance itself and remove its name from the product.

The popularity of this Cadillac of sex toys, as many call it, meant that it would soon join the popular culture, featuring in many different movies and shows such as the Bachelor Party and Sex and the City. As you can see, they initially made the toy as an everyday appliance. However, it has deep connections with feminist and sex-positive movements from the mid-20th century. Let’s check out this 50-year old story, starting from the year it first hit the shelves — 1968.

Early Days

In 1968, May, to be exact, the Japanese company Hitachi filed a trademark for the name Magic Wand. Back then, the majority of people referred to it simply as the Hitachi. That is probably due to the fact that the original packaging called it the Hitachi massager, as they added the phrase “magic wand” a year later. When they brought it out, the magic wand was just another body massager you’d use on sore muscles. They intended it for shoulders, legs, and feet. You know, they probably assumed that was what a hard-working person from the 60s had the most problems with. The first iteration of the massager had a black quilted head with a red or white body. The tapered white head that we all know and love became a thing in the 1970s.

Back then, women were still not that vocal about their sexuality. It was a bit taboo for a woman to pleasure herself. Feminist and sex-positive movements were still in their early days, which is probably why this massager was so popular at the time. Apparently, rather naively, nobody at Hitachi thought that somebody was going to look at that vibrating circular head and come up with an idea of placing the massager in their nether regions.

It was largely a women’s secret back then what they actually use it for and why they lock themselves up before they relax their sore muscles. Then, perhaps the greatest thing about it, besides its stimulative capabilities, was the fact that the massager looked like a regular, everyday home appliance. You didn’t have to hide it, and when someone stumbled upon it, you didn’t have to explain why there’s a rubber phallus in your drawer. Also, you could buy one at pretty much any larger convenience store.

Female Sexual Revolution

One of the pioneers when it comes to popularizing sex toys for women was Betty Dodson, a sex educator from New York City. Roughly at the same time when the Hitachi showed up, Dodson started organizing her now-famous Bodysex workshops. They were for women only, and Dodson used them for teaching women how to have fun on their own. From today’s perspective, it might sound backward to you, but back then, a lot of ladies had to go to a workshop to find out that they didn’t need a dick in them to feel pleasure. Dodson experimented with different vibrators (she also used Panasonic Panabrator) but then settled for the Magic Wand as her item of choice.

She showed these women how to use the massager on themselves and sent them home with a smile on their faces. Dodson wrote a book Liberating Masturbation in 1974. In it, she pretty much endorsed the Wand and made it popular with women throughout the country. Even though Hitachi would never have reached the selling numbers they did without this alternative use, they never acknowledged their dominance in the sex toy world nor Dodson’s contribution to their popularity growth.

Still insisting it was not for your private parts, in the early 1970s, Hitachi released “The Workout” edition, which was the first one that had the iconic white tapered head. They advertised it as a post-workout relief aide and a shoulder, back, and neck massager. They also replaced the female model in the packaging with a buffed male one to show, presumably, that it’s not for clitoral stimulation. However, it only attracted more women to it.

Spreading the Word

In her memoir, Revolution in the Garden, a sex educator Dell Williams recalled how she met Dodson at a yoga retreat in 1970 and eventually decided to visit one of her workshops. There, she got to hang out with the magic wand and decided to buy one for herself three years later. Allegedly, she had “a humiliating experience” at Macy’s when she went to buy the Wand. Apparently, a salesman asked her why she was buying a massager (because that’s a question salesmen ask). Instead of saying that a massager was for massaging, Williams called it a vibrator, which sparked this whole thing (those creepy men!) that made her feel ashamed.

Whether the story’s true or not, it doesn’t change the fact that a year later, in 1974, Williams founded Eve’s Garden — a sex toy store devoted to women (often marketed as the first feminist sex shop in the United States). Williams’ store was a mail-order company, which she ran from her apartment. Later on, it developed into a proper shop where women could buy whatever they wanted without being judged or asked questions (which was supposedly a huge issue).

Coast to Coast

At the same time, another female sex educator, Joani Blank, independently promoted the Magic Wand on the West Coast. She published a book which had a paragraph for a title so that you really knew what you were paying money for; Good Vibrations: Being a Treatise on the Use of Machines in the Indolent Indulgence of Erotic Pleasure-Seeking Together with Important Hints on the Acquisition, Care, and Utilization of Said Machines and Much More about the Art and Science of Buzzing Off.

The book, published in 1976, featured the Hitachi wand on its cover. That way, she got to present a sex toy without it being too controversial and phallic. A year later, in 1977, Blank opened up her first sex shop, Good Vibrations, named after the book. The store was in San Francisco, and represented a version of Eve’s Garden, where women could freely buy sex toys.

At first, Blank used to buy the wands in the city’s Japantown nearby. She resold them for a similar price, making a profit of only $2 per wand. For Blank, similarly to Dodson, this act was much more about spreading the word and educating women than it was about earning bags of money.

What the Nineties Brought

The Japanese company responsible for these bad boys never publicly acknowledged their product’s use for female sexual pleasure. However, common sense would have it that it was ridiculous to think they weren’t aware of their popularity with the ladies. The first time they accepted the fact they accidentally made a brilliant vibrator was in 1992. From their headquarters in Atlanta, Hitachi employees pitched in to buy chocolate molds in the shape of the Magic Wand. They sent those molds to Good Vibrations, which was planning a party for their 15th business anniversary. After the party, they bought 500 Wand chocolates from the store to offer at their sales conference. However, this one-time pat on the back was soon to end.

In 1999, the company made a public statement reiterating their belief, if you will. They stated that the sole use of the product was for health care purposes. We can definitely argue that they hit the nail on the head with that statement. And we wouldn’t be wrong about it! It’s also probably worth mentioning that the 1990s saw a slight change in the design. The Wand’s white body received a blue trim, something that we can hardly imagine our Wands without today.

The new millenium, however, signaled the start of a turbulent period in the history of these sex toys.

No More Wands

Before you even say anything, we know that 2000 is mathematically still in the previous millenium. Sue us if you want, we don’t care; it’s more natural this way! So, in 2000, at the start of the new millenium(!), we had a scarcity of these Wands on the market. Why? Hitachi had a falling out with American Appliance Corporation, their distributor in the United States. AAC was not in it only for the Wands, but they also provided Hitachi’s other products, such as fans, rice cookers, etc. Apparently, their distributor stopped paying up, and Hitachi stopped sending products, including Wands.

It didn’t take long for there to be a shortage of supply. At the time, online shopping websites started gaining traction. Companies like eBay began selling Magic Wands at four times their original price. Then, Vibratex entered the scene. Vibratex was a shop that earned most of its money by selling the Hitachi Wands in the past. Its owner, Shay Martin, tried to contact the company and become its new distributor. However, since they were upfront about being interested only in Wands themselves and not other products, Hitachi turned them down. They managed to agree to a one-time deal for a single container of surplus Wands.

Simultaneously, Hitachi was in negotiations with another company that was willing to buy other products alongside the Magic Wand. But that deal fell through once the Japanese firm realized their potential partners were actually only interested in the Wands. In Hitachi’s eyes, they used other products just so that they would get the contract.

Wand Hits the Screen

Since Vibratex was truthful about their intentions from the start, the Japanese went back and made a deal with Shay Martin. Funnily enough, they were still denying its sexual purposes, despite Vibratex being solely a sex toy distributor.

At the time, the toy was already popular enough with the ladies. Nonetheless, what really made its popularity skyrocket was its appearance in a famous TV show. In 2001, a Magic Wand appeared in Sex and the City! Everyone’s favorite Samantha Jones uses the toy to “try and find” her orgasm, which she had lost. You can’t really get a better recommendation than Samantha using it on TV, and women started buying the toy all over the country!

In the following season, Samantha goes to Sharper Image to complain about how a neck massager failed to make her come. An iconic scene takes place as Samantha explains to an oblivious salesman why women actually buy massagers. Although we can’t say for certain, some believe that the scene was an homage to Williams’ embarrassing experience she had 30 years prior, when she wanted to buy the Wand at Macy’s.

Name Change

So how did Hitachi feel about the fact that, since its first appearance, the Magic Wand was indeed a magic wand and not just another sports massager? Well, they seem to have been turning a blind eye for some 40-odd years. Either that or they were one of the most unobservant companies in existence. Dan Martin, Vibratex GM, said that Hitachi reached out in 2012, saying that they finally realized how they marketed the Wand in the United States. They decided to stop making them.

In order to prevent that and avert a huge financial loss, Vibratex tried to convince Hitachi to continue producing. They managed to do it, but “the cost” of it was that Hitachi dropped their name from the product.

A year later, in 2013, they rebranded and (slightly) redesigned the toy. They changed its name from Hitachi Magic Wand to Magic Wand Original. Now, nobody had any doubts about its intended use. As a result, Hitachi made improvements to the toy to make it even more effective. They adapted the vibrating head, components, and circuitry. From then on, you could buy a Wand with a cord or a rechargeable cordless one. Although some people claim that the older versions were more durable, you can still buy a Wand that will last for 10 to 15 years. That’s a lot of sweaty nights!

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