‘A new sensation’ – hair-brushing by machinery

Among the gems released into the public domain by the British Library last December is an advertisement for Batkin & Kent, Hairdressers and Perfumers of Stafford, (or Staffford – whoever proofread it probably hoped it would disappear with the next edition of the book rather than re-emerge on the internet...

Strange case: ‘At all events the blade fell’

Injuries acquired in unusual circumstances, spurious news stories of medical happenings, bizarre or gruesome reports from doctors’ casebooks… Strange cases is an occasional feature on the Quack Doctor that reproduces these tales. Today we meet a morbid Parisian who ended up spiting his face. Model of Guillotine Severs Owner’s Nose A citizen of Paris, a...

‘A Damnable Villain’ – Byron H. Robb and the Electro-Magnetic Brush Co.

The Quack Doctor is delighted to welcome guest blogger Robert K. Waits, author of The Medical Electricians: George A. Scott and His Victorian Cohorts in Quackery. In this two-part article, Robert discusses the colourful career of 19th-century fraudster Byron H Robb. . In 1878 George Augustus Scott gained fame in...

Ramey’s Medicator: an inventor’s survival

Advertisements for Ramey’s Medicator claimed that it would overcome ‘death dealing disease.’ What most customers didn’t know, however, was that the inhaler would never have existed at all if its inventor had not survived a gruesome surgical ordeal. The Medicator was patented by Alfred H Ramey and Frank D Rollins...

Guest post: England’s ‘only female doctor’?

Last year, The Quack Doctor featured some bottles from the collection of Michael Till, including this gorgeous and rare example of Cavania’s Wonder-Worker Lotion. A father and daughter team, Professor and Mademoiselle Cavania practised in the north of England during the 1860s and 70s. The prospect of formal medical qualifications...
Welcome to our virtual collection of health advertising, fraudulent schemes and medical oddities of the past.

Machine hair-brushing

The hair-brushing machine, invented in 1862, took the barber shops of Victorian Britain by storm.

'The blade fell'

In 1909, a morbid Parisian gentleman ended up regretting his fascination with the guillotine.

A Damnable Villain part 2

In the second of Robert K Waits' guest posts, electromagnetic fraudster Byron H Robb moves to Texas and adopts a new identity.

Ramey's Medicator

Ramey's Medicator was meant to cure 'death-dealing disease'. What most customers didn't know was that its inventor had been through a life-threatening medical experience of his own.

The 'only female doctor'?

In this guest post, family historian Roger Cavania Sanders introduces his great aunt, who advertised as a doctor in the 1860s.


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