Maybe this is common knowledge, or maybe I just own a sex toy store, but the story goes, that doctors who would treat women for "hysteria" (yeah, or just plain old anxiety and sexual frustration) by massaging the patient's genitalia until they reached paroxysm (what they called female orgasms). I suppose business was booming, and the doctors would get tired hands. They needed some help!
Tools to help women reach orgasm were already available, but they were big clunky beasts and not feasible to be used in a doctors office. Think, steam powered, and hydrotherapy. So the electromechanical vibrator was invented in the late 1800s.
Soon, vibrators became more portable and started to make their way out of the doctors' offices and into the homes. Of course they couldn't be sold as tools for masturbation, so they got a new job.
This is an add from McClure's magazine in April 1899. Its an add for a facial massager! Improves circulation and gives a healthy glow. Yup, I'll say!
Vibrators were sold like this until film became more available, then of course what came next was pornography. Once vibrators started appearing in porn they started to decline in popularity.
It wasn't until the 1960's that vibrators started to re-emerge into society, with feminism making its way, and the acceptance that women could actually feel sexual desire. The market was still super limited and most toys were created from the male interpretation of what a female would want.
Today, thank goodness, times have changed. You can pretty much find anything that tickles your fancy. So go out, have fun! Masturbate its good for you!