The Medical Messiahs:
A Social History of Health Quackery
in Twentieth-Century America
A Note on the Sources
James Harvey Young, PhD
Research for this book began—although I did not at the time yet realize it—on a warm summer evening in 1951 at Atlanta's Lakewood Park. The occasion was a Hadacol Caravan Show presented by Louisiana state senator Dudley J. LeBlanc. Would that all the research hours that were to follow might have proved equally beguiling.
The research problems for The Medical Messiahs turned out to be much different from those for The Toadstool Millionaires. For the earlier work, the task was to find whatever shreds of evidence many repositories might yield and hope that there would be enough to form a pattern. That book ended with an account of the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906. With regulation came records. So for this sequel, the basic task has been to decide how many and which of the thousands of cubic feet of records in governmental archives to survey. The indispensable material from which The Medical Messiahs is constructed comes from the archives of three regulatory agencies and two private organizations: the Food and Drug Administration, the Post Office Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the American Medical Association, and the National Better Business Bureau.
Enforcement of the 1906 act began in the Bureau of Chemistry of the Department of Agriculture. In 1927, still within this Department, the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration was created, the "Insecticide" being dropped from the name three years later. In 1940 the FDA left Agriculture to be part of the new Federal Security Agency, and in 1953 it became part of the new Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. I have used Bureau of Chemistry records, from Record Group 97 in the National Archives, and Department of Agriculture records, from Record Group 16. Especially helpful were files of the General Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary, and Solicitor's Office papers concerned with cases being worked up for trial. Food and Drug Administration records are found in Record Group 88 in the National Archives or its outlying record centers. More current records are housed in the FDA offices. Of the many types of FDA primary documents used, most central to my research were the extensive jackets concerned with adjudicated cases, papers accumulated from various bureaus and field offices in preparation for drafting FDA annual reports, and files of correspondence and clippings relating to the effort to secure stronger legislation during the 1930's. Also of importance were files of public addresses delivered by agency officials; press releases, starting in 1915; Notices of Judgment, the legal method of announcing terminated cases; and the Food and Drug Review, a house organ of restricted circulation which began in 1917 to keep employees of the agency and cooperating state and local food and drug officials informed. Printed annual reports of the FDA have been brought together conveniently by the Food Law Institute in Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law, Administrative Reports, 1907-1949 (Chicago, 1951). Sage counsel as to how I might discover what would be most useful in the manuscript records came from the late John J. McCann, Jr., of FDA and from Helen T. Finneran, Jerome Finster, and Harold T. Pinkett of the National Archives.
Post Office Department medical fraud records form part of Record Group 28 in the National Archives; more recent records, of course, remain in the Department. Valuable for this study were the Fraud Order Case File, a terse summary of findings and action taken in each case; the Fraud Order Jackets, each a complete record of a case (although not all case jackets have been preserved); Transcripts of Hearings of Fraud Order Cases, verbatim testimony (again, the preservation process has been selective); and various docket books. The docket books reveal the logging in of complaints and record step by step the stages in each case's development until its resolution. As Post Office fraud machinery has been modified, docket book titles have changed: Fraud and Lottery Docket (1902-1951); Hearing Examiners' Docket (1951
Solicitor's Docket (1951-1956); General Council's Docket (1956-1958); Post Office Department Docket (1958- ). In the General Counsel's file room, there exists a card file covering Post Office fraud cases classified alphabetically by schemes for the period 1920 into the early 1950's. The annual reports of the Postmaster General also proved of value. Arthur Hecht of the National Archives served as an expert guide through the intricacies of Post Office Department Records.
The Federal Trade Commission has published its Decisions from the date of its creation, the first volume appearing in 1920. The docket for each official case, containing all the legal papers, is available for public examination in the FTC's Docket Room. A number of such dockets were studied for this book. Addresses by commissioners and by members of the staff were found in the Speech File in the FTC Library. Press releases treat all aspects of the Commission's activity, and helpful annual reports are issued.
Beginning early in the century, the American Medical Association began to assemble information concerning nostrums and their proprietors, a task that still continues. Hundreds of folders, each containing a case history, are filled with thousands of items, the sources for numerous articles on quackery in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in Today's Health (and its predecessor, Hygeia), for scores of blue-bound pamphlets, and for the three useful Nostrum and Quackery volumes issued by the AMA in 1911, 1921, and 1936. Under the helpful guidance of Oliver Field and Juelma Williams, I used many of these folders, housed in the Department of Investigation at the AMA's Chicago headquarters. Also useful were the manuscript annual reports of this department.
The National Better Business Bureau in New York City retains a complete file of its bulletins and other publications, many of which concern questionable medical promotions. I was permitted to examine these sources, and also some data from case files, by Maye A. Russ and Dr. Irving Ladimer, successively in charge of food and drug matters for the Bureau.
The modes of operation employed by promoters of drugs and devices emerge with vivid clarity from the case files of these regulatory and private agencies. All files contain printed promotional material devised by proprietors in mounting their schemes.
Valuable material has been provided me, at the beadquarters offices in New York and also through the mail, by Dr. Roald N. Grant and Irene L. Bartlett of the American Cancer Society and by Dr- Ronald W. Lamont-Havers and James L. Curran of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation. In 1964 this Foundation consolidated with other aoencies in the field to form The Arthritis Foundation.
Judicial proceedings have provided source material of great importance. The transcripts of four trials in federal district courts were made available by the Office of the General Counsel in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare: these transcripts concerned the Drown, Hohensee, Hoxsey, and Kaadt cases. Some checking was done in the Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, Federal Record Center, Region 3, and in the case records of the United States Supreme Court. Court decisions were studied in the various legal volumes reporting them. With respect to cases involving food and drug raw, these decisions have been helpfully assembled in a series of volumes. Decisions of Courts in Cases under the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906 was compiled by Mastin G. White and Otis H. Gates complete up to the date their volume appeared (Washington, 1934). Decisions under the 1938 law have been conveniently reprinted in a Food Law Institute Series, edited by Vincent A. Kleinfeld, Charles Wesley Dunn, and Alan H. Kaplan, each of the six volumes entitled Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act: Judicial and Administrative Record, with the appropriate covering dates, from 1938-1949 (Chicago, 1949), through 1961-1964 (Chicago, 1965). The 1949-1950 volume contains significant cases decided under the 1906 law after the appearance of the White-Gates volume. These works also periodically bring UP to date the reprinting of FDA annual reports, first assembled in a volume covering 1907-1949, as mentioned above, and reprint other Food and Drug Administration data.
Hearings and reports of Congressional committees and the Congressional Record have been of great value to me in preparing this book, especially in studying the background of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the Durham-Humphrey Act of 1951, and the Kefauver-Harris Act of 1962. Charles Wesley Dunn assembled the pertinent passages from the Congressional Record, draft copies of the bills at various stages, committee reports, and excerpts from hearings in Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, A Statement of Its Legislative Record (N.Y., 1938), and Wheeler-Lea Act, A Statement of Its Legislative Record (N.Y., 1938).
The Harvey W. Wiley Papers in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress were examined for some aspects of Wiley's nostrum regulation while he was chief of the Bureau of Chemistry. An effort was made to determine President Roosevelt's role in the effort to secure stronger food and drug legislation during the New Deal by studying manuscripts in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park.
Interviews proved to be of inestimable value in acquiring new
information, a clarification of printed records, and an achievement
of more adequate perspective. It would be almost impossible to
list all those helpful to me in this way. Of those at the Food
and Drug Administration who now are or who were officials during
the course of my research, I received significant aid from Dr.
James L. Goddard, Gilbert S. Goldhammer, William W. Goodrich,
Wallace F. Janssen, George P. Larrick, John J. McCann, Jr., Dr.
Kenneth L. Milstead, Winton B. Rankin, John W. Sanders, and James
L. Trawick. At the Post Office Department, I was helped in my
research especially by T. N. Berdeen, William F. Callahan, Louis
J. Doyle, Charles E. Dunbar, Richard S. Farr, Abraham Levine,
and Ralph Manherz. At the Federal Trade Commission I profited
from several interviews with Dr. Frederick W. Irish and Charles
A. Sweeny. At the American Medical Association, Dr. W.W. Bauer,
Oliver Field, and Juelma Williams gave me great assistance. At
the National Better Business Bureau, Maye A. Russ and Dr. Irving
Ladimer discussed interpretive problems helpfully. Among the many
others who have provided me with information or insights are Dr.
Walter Alvarez of Chicago; Dr. Oscar E. Anderson of NASA; Mrs.
Ruth Lamb Atkinson of Brookline, Mass.; Dr. Harry F. Dowling of
the University of Illinois College of Medicine; Dr. A. Hunter
Dupree of the University of California at Berkeley; Dr. Morris
Fishbein of Chicago; George Griffenhagen of the American Pharmaceutical
Association; Boisfeuillet Jones, then of the Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare; justice Simon Sobeloff, then Solicitor
General of the United States; and Dr. Fredrick J. Stare of the
Harvard University School of Public Health.
Newspapers and magazines have also provided information of value to me in fashioning this book, as the footnotes testify. A few journals deserve specific mention. Standard Remedies from 1915 into the 1930's reflected the perspective of the major proprietary drug manufacturers. The trade papers Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter and Drug Trade News covered all developments of significance with respect to drugs. With the advent of the 1938 law, an industry newsletter, FDC Reports-Drugs and Cosmetics, generally known as "The Pink Sheet," probed deeply into what was happening and likely to happen on the drug scene, presenting its facts and speculation with considerable historical perspective. Many articles of great importance, especially on the legal aspects of federal regulation, have appeared in the Food Drug Cosmetic Law Journal. The AMA journals, as mentioned above, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, journals of opinion like the Nation and the New Republic, magazines expressing the consumer viewpoint like Consumers' Research Bulletin and Consumer Reports, have all provided me with useful information. Two issues of Law and Contemporary Problem (Dec. 1933 and Winter 1939) were devoted to the New Deal crusade to strengthen the food and drug law. World Medical Journal for Sep. 1962 considers quackery in a worldwide setting. The Sep. 1963 issue of the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association focuses upon quackery, and with the Sep. 1966 issue began a series on "Home Remedies in Review." A symposium on "The Government and the Consumer: Evolution of the Food and Drug Laws" appeared in the Journal of Public Law, 13 (1964), 189-221. The Emory University Quarterly Summer 1965 issue presented a symposium on "The American Drug Scene."
The Proceedings of two conferences, jointly sponsored by the AMA and the FDA, National Congress on Medical Quackery [Oct. 6-7, 1961] (Chicago, 1962), and Second National Congress on Medical Quackery [Oct. 25-26, 19631 (Chicago, 1964), reprint addresses by the leading figures from the ranks of government, medicine, and business concerned with regulating quackery or educating against it. Some of the addresses given at a third conference are included in Third National Congress on Medical Quackery, October 7-8, 1966, Chicago, Illinois, Papers (Chicago, 1967), which preceded the publication of the Proceedings of the Congress (Chicago, 1967).
A basic list of books concerned with quackery in the 20th century, or with the broader setting within which quackery operates, includes the following: American Cancer Society, Unproven Methods of Cancer Treatment (N.Y., 1966); Oscar E. Anderson, Jr., The Health of a Nation, Harvey W. Wiley and the Fight for Pure Food (Chicago, 1958); James G. Burrow, AMA, Voice of American Medicine (Baltimore, 1963); Gerald Carson, The Roguish World of Doctor Brinkley (N.Y., 1960); Stuart Chase and F. J. Schlink, Your Money's Worth (N.Y., 1927); Chase, The Tragedy of Waste (N.Y., 1925); Consumers Union, The Medicine Show (N.Y., 1961); James Cook, Remedies and Rackets, The Truth about Patent Medicines Today (N.Y., 1958); Ronald M. Deutsch, The Nuts among the Berries (N.Y., 1961); M.N.G. Dukes, Patent Medicines and Autotherapy in Society (The Hague, 1963) [mainly concerned with Britain and the Netherlands]; A. Hunter Dupree, Science in the Federal Government, A History of Policies and Activities to 1940 (Cambridge, Mass., 1957); Morris Fishbein, Fads and Quackery in Healing (N.Y., 1932); Fishbein, A History of the American Medical Association, 1847 to 1947 (Philadelphia, 1957); Fishbein, The Medical Follies (N.Y., 1925); Fishbein, The New Medical Follies (N.Y., 1927); Martin Gardner, In the Name of Science (N.Y., 1952); T. Swann Harding, The Popular Practice of Fraud (N.Y., 1935); Richard Harris, The Real Voice (N.Y., 1964); Richard J. Hopkins, "Medical Prescriptions and the Law: A Study of the Enactment of the Durham-Humphrey Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act" (Atlanta, 1965: unpublished Emory University M.A. thesis); Arthur Kallet and F. J. Schlink, 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs (N.Y., 1933); Ruth deForest Lamb, American Chamber of Horrors (N.Y., 1936); Louis Lasagna, The Doctors' Dilemmas (N.Y., 1962); Elmer V. McCollum, A History of Nutrition (Boston, 1957); Morton Mintz,
The Therapeutic Nightmare (Boston, 1965); Otis Pease) The Responsibilities of American Advertising, Private Control and Public Influence, 1920-1940 (New Haven, 1958); Frank Presbrey, The History and Development of Advertising (Garden City, 1929); Francis X. Quinn, ed., Ethics, Advertising and Responsibility (Westminster, Md., 1963); Richard H. Shryock, The Development of Modern Medicine, An Interpretation of the Social and Scientific Factors Involved (N.Y., 1947); Ralph Lee Smith, The Health Hucksters (N.Y., 1960); Bernard Sternsher, Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal (New Brunswick, N.J., 1964); Julius Stieglitz, ed., Chemistry in Medicine (N.Y., 1928); Paul Talalay, ed., Drugs in Our Society (Baltimore, 1964); Ruth Walrad, The Misrepresentation of Arthritis Drugs and Devices in the United States (N.Y., 1960); Gustavus A. Weber, The Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration, Its History, Activities and Organization (Baltimore, 1928); Harvey W. Wiley, An Autobiography (Indianapolis, 1930); Wiley, The History of a Crime against the Food Law (Washington, 1929).
My own articles along the road to this volume are: "The Hadacol Phenomenon," Emory University Quarterly, 7 (June 1951), 72-86; "The 'Elixir Sulfanilamide' Disaster," ibid., 14 (Dec. 1958), 230-37; "The 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act," Journal of Public Law, 13 (1964), 197-204; "Social History of American Drug Legislation," in Talalay, ed., Drugs in Our Society, 217-29; and "Device Quackery in America," Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 39 (Mar.-Apr. 1965), 154-62.
This page was posted on January 30, 2002.