In 1870 a Dr John P. Gray, of Utica, told this strange and rather sad little tale to a meeting of the New York State Medical Society, about a patient he had recently encountered. The case was then reported in The Medical Record:
The individual was a native of Germany, and had always been considered as a female—wearing the usual apparel of the sex, and in every respect conforming to the requirements of such a supposed condition. When nineteen years of age two bodies descended below the pubes, one on either side, which were afterwards proved to be bona fide testicles. At the time, however, the patient and family believed them to be hernial protrusions. The hair had grown long, and the general shape of the body was that of a female.
Subsequent medical examination revealed that the German possessed an unusual combination of genital organs. In addition to a scrotum containing two testicles, there was a ‘rudimentary penis’ resembling an unusually large clitoris, and an opening resembling a vagina. The patient also had small and only slightly developed breasts, and a ‘light mustache’. Using the terminology of the day, Dr Gray described the patient as ‘an hermaphrodite’, but today we would describe them as intersex.
Occupied as a cook, he became associated with a young Dutch girl who was the assistant. They remained together for a period of three years; and when the patient became impressed with the possibility that a separation might occur, the attachment on his part, which previously had been more or less latent, ripened into love. In sheer desperation, feeling that life would be unendurable without her, he made a declaration in due form, and avowed himself a man, giving as an excuse for appearing in woman’s attire that while at sea he had been engaged in a mutiny, which, for the sake of his life, rendered the deception imperative.
A resourceful solution to the dilemma.
Shortly after this he visited his brother in a northern county, where the proposed transformation was accomplished by cutting off the hair and changing the dress for coat and pants.
Shortly afterwards the cook and his fiancée were married, an event which caused obvious practical difficulties.
When he determined to get married, being of a very ingenious turn of mind and fully appreciating his physical defect, he resolved to imitate nature and construct a penis for himself. When engaged in the invention, he had seized every opportunity to study the conformation of the organ.
What exactly these ‘opportunities’ were is not revealed.
Besides this, after he had donned the male attire he had increased facilities, and made the best of them, and by studying different models, he finally made up his mind as to the shape, dimensions and general appearance of the organ, and succeeded in constructing a remarkably unique apparatus. As presented to the Society it consisted of a body formed of cotton, six inches in length, having the shape of the penis, minus a prepuce, and sheathed in a piece of pig’s gut, the whole having a slight vermilion color. To the feel it was rather elastic, and its shape was maintained by a piece of gutta-percha tubing, around which the cotton was firmly wound. At the root of the penis was a circular framework of thick wire, with small square branches on either side for the purpose of attaching straps. The upper edge of the root of the penis was fastened to the upper portion of the ring by a strap which was long enough to reach to a waistband.
This was a surprisingly sophisticated prosthesis:
The central and upper strap was so arranged in the ring, that by a little jerk the penis could be instantly thrown in an erect position, and could be so maintained by buttoning it up higher. Besides this he had constructed a flesh-colored covering which completely concealed the straps. By means of this contrivance he was enabled to deceive his wife as to his virile power, according to her statement, for fifteen months, and the trick was only accidentally discovered as she was undressing him, while he was in a helpless state of intoxication.
If you’re going to indulge in this sort of deception, it is probably wise not to let yourself become hopelessly inebriated.
He told her when they were first married that it was very indecent for a husband to undress in the presence of his wife, and that it was customary for her to retire first and blow out the light. This habit gave him ample opportunities for arranging his apparatus in an erect position before retiring. Partly from fear that his virile power would be questioned, and partly from ignorance, the time of actual coitus would not unfrequently approach an hour.
Ignorance is bliss, as they say.
When the discovery was made the wife hid the instrument, and the patient subsequently attempted coitus by contact, but, as is affirmed, with very unsatisfactory results, although both parties had an incomplete orgasm. It is evident also that the sufferer had sexual instincts, inasmuch as a love for the girl had been engendered, which was, after the discovery of his deception, turned to poignant jealousy.
A sad story, and one with a sad end:
The patient is at present a victim of exalted delusions, and the wife has applied for a divorce.
Postscript: At the time this report appeared, few other cases of an artificial penis had been recorded in the literature. But there was one other example: as reported in The Lancet in 1828, at a meeting of the London Medical Society that year the society’s President reported that he had once encountered a patient who
had entirely lost the penis, and he was in consequence supplied with an ivory succedaneum [substitute]; the fellow, however, with this instrument, was so libidinous amongst the females, that it was necessary to exclude him from a workhouse of which he was an inmate.