Cover image for Snake oil, hustlers and hambones : the American medicine show
Snake oil, hustlers and hambones : the American medicine show
Anderson, Ann, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson : McFarland & Company, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 190 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
R730 .A54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This illustrated study of the medicine show phenomenon surveys 19th century popular entertainment and offers an insight into the ways in which show business, advertising, and medicine manufacture developed in concert.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The more things change, the more they stay the same. A brief look at TV infomercials, food supplement and weight-loss diet ads and magazine articles, and a few minutes with radio persuaders addressing health problems make one wonder whether it has always been so. Yes, in different forms, of course, and definitely since the Middle Ages. Anderson offers a delightful, comprehensive, and well-documented history of quackery, patent medicines, health fraud, and early medicine. She has admirably interwoven these subjects and related them to the parallel development of carnivals, fairs, tent shows, museums, printing, advertising, show business, and marketing. The book teems with colorful and outrageous personalities of US history and informs the reader about mountebanks, charlatans, quacks, Yankee peddlers, tripes and keister men, jam auctioneers, grifters and grafters, ballyhooers, and shills. We have come a long way in establishing consumer protection, as detailed in the last chapter. But an examination of the current scene of rip-off schemes in the health field and a comparison of the old with the new lead to the conclusion that we are still very much undereducated, do not listen to the voices of reason, and therefore will be exploited by opportunists, fakes, and false prophets. All levels. M. Kroger; emeritus, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus

Table of Contents

Heinrich R. Falk
Forewordp. ix
1. Origins and Influencesp. 1
2. Colonial and Pioneer Medicine Set the Stage for the Patent-Medicine Industryp. 20
3. Patent Medicines: Good for What Ails Youp. 31
4. Museums, Circuses, and the Wild, Wild Westp. 48
5. Blackface and Slapstickp. 74
6. That Old-Time Religionp. 91
7. Street Corners and Big Tentsp. 103
8. Medicine--Show Life and Tricks of the Tradep. 126
9. Yahoo, Hadacol!p. 147
10. The Curtain Comes Downp. 156
Appendix I "All Run Down"p. 165
Appendix II "Heart Failure"p. 167
Appendix III Temperance Songsp. 169
Chapter Notesp. 171
Bibliographyp. 183
Indexp. 191