Selling patent medicine – quackery on the street in 1902

Selling patent medicine - quackery on the street in 1902
The blatant lecturer on therapeutics (mounted on a cart, with a chart of the digestive system and a row of bottles of the Universal Elixir) will bang his chart with an impassioned stick.

Here’s how the patent medicine scientist hawked his wares in the early 20th Century. You’ll see that not much has changed when peddling the Universal Elixir. Our stand-up advertiser promises he won’t cheat you like those others, that he’s a serious man of science rejected by the establishment, and that doctors charge too much and are only in it for the money. And the medical establishment doesn’t explain anything to you, anyway, while he’ll explain everything, using specific Latin terms, mathematical statistics, allusions to famous scientists, and a multicolored chart.

He’ll also offer you the choice of different formulations (pills and mixture) which when combined magnifies the healing effects.

And he does not object to selling a dozen bottles to the same person.

I am not here to-night, ladies and gentlemen, to delude you, nor to deceive you, nor to bamboozle you, nor to humbug you, nor to make up for scientific and medicinal ignorance by silly jokes and unphysiological nonsense. No!

A heducated man of science, drove out of the corrupt ring of registered practitioners by professional jealousy, and professional spite, and professional greed, I come free and open to show you all, to demonster-ate to you, how you are robbed, how you are deluded, how you are bamboozled and humbugged by the so called qualified doctors that fattens upon the infirmities of human nature.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you go to a doctor in a fashionable square, with a brass plate on the door, for to be attended to, what does that doctor do? He charges you, that’s certain, and that’s all that is certain, and all he thinks about. What else does he do? You dunno. He dunno. Nobody dunno. I’m sure I dunno, and I dunno nobody else but what dunno.

He gives you a bottle of stuff, perhaps, or a box of pills. Do he tell you what’s in that bottle of stuff, or what them pills is made of? Not him. He won’t tell you, and I don’t believe he knows hisself. Do he tell you what the action will be on the human body? Not him. He dunno that, and I’m sure he wouldn’t like me to tell you.

But here I have a bottle of stuff, and here I have a pill; and I won’t takeno, not five hundred pound if you offered it for either of them till I’ve explained clear what the action is of them two unrivalled remedies.

I have here a correck view of the whole digestive system, and a view of the blood system, and a view of the nervous system; the three medicinal systems which, if I didn’t exactly discover them myselfand I won’t deny but what I came very close to itnevertheless are very near as important as some of the things I did discover.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll take the digestive system. Supposin’ an affection of the digestive system, such as gashtric fever, typhoid, indigestion, alimental stultification, or even the common and very prevalent casus belli, commonly called stomach-ache. Having took the mixture, or the pill, as the case may be, in the ordinary way in the trappum osculatum, or mouth, it passes, as you will perceive, into the digestive system; and havin’ arrived there, and remainin’ there, and bein’ there, why there it is!

There it is, in the precise spot wanted, and it exercises a beneficent, emollient, dulciferous, soporiferous, remedial cure in a way which it would take a week to explain in a scientific manner, which you wouldn’t understand. So much for the digestive system, which you will now comprehend so thoroughly that I need not explain it further.

Ah, but, says you, very properly, suppose the trouble is in the nervous system or the circulation of the blood, what then? It is then, ladies and gentlemen, that my world-renowned elixir and igstrornary pill prove their incontestable superiority over the morbiferous, pestiferous nostrums and paternostrums of the so-called profession.

Absorbed first, in the usual manner, by the trappum taterum, they pass into the digestive system, which is coloured blue, till they arrive at the tie plus ultra, or outer wall of the stomach, or panartum, and then, with a saltatory gambado, which is the peculiar property of their most expensive ingredient, they pass, per saltuim, or, as you might say, cum grano salis, into the nervous system, which is coloured black, or into the circulation of the blood, which is coloured red, consekins of the red corpuscles predominating in the proportion of fifty to one, which is long odds, as I think you will agree, and proves a cure to be as good as certain with the very first dose.

For you will observe that, it being fifty to one in favour of a cure with the first dose, it is fifty times fifty to one in favour of a certain cure with the second, as I once proved to Professor Huxley by the celebrated mathematical rule of tertium quid, or decimal rule of three, to his intense amazement.

Now, then, just to show you, just to demonsterate to you that I am not in the least like the common so-called profession, I will proceed to sell this invaluable mixture at the popular price of sixpence a bottle, bottle included. Pills, twopence. There is nothing to equal the mixture, as I have incontestably proved to you, except the pills, and nothink in the whole world like the pills except the mixture.

And remember, ladies and gents, that if it is fifty to one bar none on a cure with the first dose of either, and two thousand five hundred to one on a cure with the second, there is nothing in this wonderful world about us that can withstand a dose of the pills and mixture combined.

Thank you, mum, thank you. You too, mum ? Here it is. Remember, I am not limitin’ you to one bottleI am equally ready to sell two, and I do not object to sell a dozen to the same person. Now, then, for sixpence only!"

This spiel is an excerpt from a humorous article about various goods sold from street stalls. Stalls was written by Leonard Larkin in The Strand Magazine in 1902. You may know The Strand for being the publisher of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve cleaned up the text a bit to make it more readable, since readers nowadays have a harder time reading dialect.

If you need to get the pronunciation correct, see the original document, which drops the "h" sounds, the "g" at the end of any "ing" words, an’ the "d" at the en’ of any "d" words.

I also stuck in some breaks so your eyes won’t poop out from long expanses of text – the original was one long paragraph – although I suppose the original huckster could chatter on without breathing.

The Strand Magazine at Google>>

Tagged : / /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *