Snake Oil and Quackery   Leave a comment

Sight Restored

Miracle Man, Dr. Oren Oneil

Since it’s been a while since I did anything remotely steampunkish, I thought I might revisit the genre. I have some old magazines from 1902 – Pearson’s and The Smart Set. As I leafed through the pages, inspiration beat on my brain with the force of a brass Thor’s hammer.

Classifieds and advertisements from bygone eras area always fascinating to read, but none more so, it seems, than from late Victorian/early Georgian era. As technology grew, so did claims about its abilities. While it’s true significant gains in medical research grew during this time, so did quacks who claimed to have the answer for particular ailments.

Take, for example, Dr. Oren Oneil, inventor of the Oneil Dissolvent Method. This convincing ad practically screams credibility, claiming this gifted oculist restored sight to thousands – even cross eyed people! – yet a child could consume his potent tonic and live to talk about it. And if you didn’t take his word for it, just write to the people he cured. But of course, it really was too good to be true, and the truth was exposed in this Collier’s Weekly article from 1906.

Body BraceNatural Body Brace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sorry, but there’s nothing natural about these body braces. I can’t help but love the claim, “Cures ailments peculiar to women” and “Female weakness.” How can a gizmo such as the above help with liver trouble, lady’s headache, constipation AND make you more attractive? I do think this body brace would make an excellent addition to any modern-day steampunk costume and peculiarities collection.

 

Bunions

 

Adding to the brace field is “Pond’s Toe Spring.” This medical marvel has been endorsed by medical men here and abroad, although it doesn’t specify what kind of practice or nation so hot on using said toe spring. I imagine those with foot fetishes go for this sort of bondage thing.

Blindness

While Dr. Oneil used a tonic to cure blindness and other eye ailments, the marvels of electricity proved a more effective cure. All you needed to use was a pocket battery to remove stubborn cataracts, pteryglums, granulated lids to restore vision. I’m not quite sure why the New York & London Electric Association chose to do business from Kansas City, Missouri, but perhaps it provided a friendlier environment for stealing people’s money.

 

Break the Bonds

At first glance, one can hardly guess this is an ad for fake coffee, but a cry for help for addicts of caffeine. Dyspepsia, weak heart, kidney trouble, sour stomach, inactive brain and nervous prostration. While there might be an argument for a few of the ailments, I’m addled to consider blaming coffee on an inactive brain. Who hasn’t gotten juiced up on coffee studying for finals to wake that brain up? Postum, the “food coffee,” is the miraculous cure for those who are hopelessly addicted to the pre-Starbucks set. My own mother used to drink Postum, and I can tell you the last thing it tasted like was coffee.

Liquor Habit

But then again, coffee might not be so bad when you can secretly slip in an odorless, tasteless cure, quietly and permanently without the patient’s knowledge or consent, to cure that evil liquor habit. Sure, because they’ll be dead. At least it’s good for both sexes.

 

Fits

Sure, I’d love to cure my St. Vitus’s Dance, even for free, especially since thousands have been helped where everything else has failed. So now that you have my AGE and full address, what else are you going to rip me off for?

MorpheneOpium

Painless and permanent home cures seem to be the thing. These promise Vital Principle heretofore unknown and lacking in all others, and better still, can be taken without interruption to convenience or detention from business. Again, I’m thinking this is possible because the distressed addict will die, leading to the permanent cure.

Hypnotism

The general rule is: if it has buzz marks, then it’s effective. The ad says, ” Life is full of alluring possibilities for those who master the secrets of hypnotic influence; for those who develop their magnetic powers. You can learn at home, cure diseases and bad habits without drugs, win the friendship and love of others, increase your income, gratify your ambitions, drive worry and trouble from your mind, improve your memory, overcame domestic difficulties, give the most thrilling entertainment ever witnessed and develop a wonderfully magnetic will power that will enable you to overcome all obstacles to your success.” What hooked me was: “It is enthusiastically endorsed by ministers of the gospel, lawyers, doctors, business men and society women.” Think about this combination. Doctors trying to get over on people need lawyers so they don’t get sued for using newfound powers on society women who presumably will become fallen women who need to be saved by ministers of the gospel. That’s just my take on it.

French Lick

Of course, all of the above can be had for the price of admission at French Lick Springs. It’s the capital of pleasure!

Bon voyage!

 

 

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