Laetrile in Historical Perspective
June 13, 2020 by

Laetrile’s history has been complex, tortuous, kaleidoscopic. Beginning inauspiciously like hundreds of other small-time anti-cancer schemes, Laetrile soared to a notorious pinnacle as the unorthodox brand-name health promotion generating the largest amount of public furor in the nation’s history. Numerous actors played roles in this perfervid drama. Laetrile’s history, first, may be placed within three …

Epidemic Quackery
July 17, 2018 by

There certainly must exist an old English proverb warning, “He who carries coals to Newcastle runs grave risk of being burned.” I must admit that I have felt uncomfortably warm of late in contemplating my presentation before this seminar, in which laetrile should constitute a principal ingredient of my remarks. Some of you have devoted …

A Historian’s View of Quackery in 1974
November 14, 2016 by

Humbug and Fraud, two recent books, help clarify the intellectual climates in which health quackery began to flourish mightily in America and, a century and a half later, continues to prosper. Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum, by Neil Harris, scarcely alludes to deception with respect to health, but its brilliant analysis of how a …

The Medical Messiahs: Contents
November 15, 2006 by

The 1966 edition of this book described the development of patent medicines in America from the enactment in 1906 of the Pure Food and Drugs Act through the mid-1960s. In 1992, an afterword was added to summarize what had happened during the previous 25 years. Dr. Young (1915-2006) was a social historian whose special interest …

The Toadstool Millionaires: Contents
November 15, 2006 by

This book, originally published in 1961, chronicles the rise of the patent medicine trade from its beginnings in colonial America until passage of the first federal food and drug law. Dr. Young (1915-2006) was a social historian whose special interest was the development of food and drug regulation in America. He served for many years …

The Toadstool Millionaires: Chapter 15
June 1, 2002 by

I know it is common to speak of the ‘good old days’ of snake oil and soothing syrup as though they were gone forever. The amazing fact is that to a very great extent those good old days, so-called, are still with us. — Commissioner George P. Larrick, Food and Drug Administration, 1955 [1] Prior …

The Todstool Millionaires: Chapter 4
June 1, 2002 by

Blind!-Leaders of the blind! lift up your eyes And seek for light, that leads from ruins brink! Your Calomel, and all your deadly drugs, reject! The world is wakening round you! Botanic Doctors (sounding the majesty of truth) Gain ground: the mercurial craft declines! Thick darkness flies before Thomsonian light, Bursting in glory on a …

The Toadstool Millionaires: Sources
June 1, 2002 by

The public posture of the patent medicine maker is easier to observe throughout history than are his private ways. Newspapers, saved mainly for other matter than their advertising, preserve it nonetheless, and nostrum advertising is a funda-mental source of the present book, from the Boston News-Letter of October 4, 1708, which contained America’s “first,” to …

The Toadstool Millionaires: Chapter 13
May 31, 2002 by

“Ponce de Leon, groping toward that dim fountain whence youth springs eternal, might believe that he had found his goal in the Peruna factory, the Liquozone ‘labora-tory,’ or the Vitae-Ore plant; his thousands of descendants in this century of enlightenment painfully drag themselves along poisoned trails, following a will-o’-the-wisp that dances above open graves.” — …

The Toadstool Millionaires: Chapter 14
May 31, 2002 by

“We may extend our lines as a country; we may build battle ships and navies and constitute great armies; but if the health of the people is to be undermined by these concoctions of fraudulent and bogus medicines, of what avail is it?” — Weldon B. Heyburn in the Senate, 1904 [1] Members of the …