Goat testicles and great stories! An interview with film director Penny Lane

In Depression-era Kansas, small-town doctor J R Brinkley made a fortune from his novel method of treating impotence. It was startling, sensationally popular… and a total con. His strange career has inspired filmmaker Penny Lane (right) to create a documentary, NUTS! The Brinkley Story, which uses animation and original footage …

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A devil of a cure

One must always be grateful for small mercies. When a giant jazz-hands Satan is trampling amok on your planet of residence, you can at least gain comfort from the fact he has kept his underpants on. This depiction of Old Nick was registered as a trademark in 1915 by the …

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What the Apothecary Ordered

WTAO - inside pages

I’m delighted to announce that 10 August is the UK publication day for a pocket volume I compiled for Old House Books, an imprint of Shire Publications. What the Apothecary Ordered gathers together some of the more peculiar remedies of the last two millennia, and presents them alongside evocative images …

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‘A new sensation’ – hair-brushing by machinery

The New and Delightful Method - Punch vol 45 p175

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 …

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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 …

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‘A Damnable Villain’ part 2 – a free pony for your wife!

In the second part of his guest article, Robert K. Waits – author of The Medical Electricians – reveals Byron H Robb’s change of career from electro-magnetic entrepreneur to Texas rancher. Read Part 1 here.   . Even as a Farmington, Ohio, teenager in 1854, Robb was honing his skill …

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

Robb Electromagnetic brush

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 …

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History Carnival 132

The March of Intellect

It might be 1 April but there are no fools in the history blogosphere if the last month is anything to go by. I’m pleased to present History Carnival 132, showcasing some of the fascinating blog posts published in March. Thank you to all who submitted articles for inclusion. The …

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History Carnival – nominations please!

The Quack Doctor will be hosting the April edition of The History Carnival, a monthly showcase for the latest history blogging, and you are invited to nominate posts for inclusion. The Carnival is a fun way to share news, views and research as well as to discover other bloggers writing …

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Ramey’s Medicator: an inventor’s survival

Ramey's inhaler

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 …

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