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Chest protector, London, England, 1870-1901

Made from felt, this chest protector is used to help lotions and medical treatments soak into the chest and provide warmth. The makers, S. Maw, Son and Thompson, recommend its use for those with from bronchitis, asthma, rheumatism and pulmonary tuberculosis. It must have been widely known as the maker registered the name 'Medicated Balsamic Chest Promoter' at Stationer's Hall. (Stationer's Hall was used to patent and copyright ideas.) Judging by the size – it measures about 180 mm wide and 260 mm high – it was probably made for a child.

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Glossary: asthma

A common condition in which the airways go into spasm and become constricted. It causes wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing. It is often a reaction to hypersensitivity, but can also be triggered by exercise or stress.

Glossary: bronchitis

Inflammation of one or more bronchi (one of the larger air passages in the lungs), usually a result of infection. It is characterized by intense coughing.

Glossary: rheumatism

A disorder where aches and pains affect the muscles and joints.

Glossary: chest protector

A garment designed to protect the chest from injury. These are commonly worn when participating in hard contact sports or any other activity that carries a risk of injury.

Glossary: pulmonary tuberculosis

A deadly airborne disease which attacks the lungs.