Busy curing a man in America

I have no background to the following newspaper story – I don’t know who the tailor was or even whether he really existed. The newspaper’s purpose in printing the tale is clearly to amuse readers and allow them to congratulate themselves that they aren’t among the supposed gullible masses who would …

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Dr Rock’s Political Speech to the Mob in Covent-Garden

This is a short excerpt from a speech attributed to Dr Richard Rock in a satirical mid-18th-century pamphlet called The harangues, or speeches, of several celebrated quack-doctors, in town and country. Rock, whose Viper Drops have previously appeared on this site, is sometimes referred to as an itinerant quack, but …

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Sequah – a Victorian Celebrity Quack

Source: The Graphic 11 July 1891 . From the moment of his sudden rise to fame in Portsmouth in 1887, Sequah knew how to win friends and influence people. He built up an almost cult-like following by giving the crowds what they wanted – miraculous cures, affordable medicines, and a lot …

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The Balm of Zura, or Phoenix of Life

Source: Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 3 April 1823 Much of the evidence on this one is anecdotal, but the proprietor of the Balm of Zura, Dr A. Lamert, certainly sounds quite a character. Lamert was the son of a London-based German quack who dabbled in ophthalmology before moving on to …

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Dr Hammond and his Electric, Curative & Phosphoric Vitalizer

Source: The North Wales Chronicle 18 April 1868 In a series of letters to the Medical Circular in the 1860s, Francis Burdett Courtenay, under the pseudonym ‘Detector’, exposed the villainous practices of a breed of quacks preying on men who suspected they had spermatorrhea. Spermatorrhea (an excessive discharge of semen) …

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‘Like a half-felled cow’ – a case of arsenic poisoning in Victorian Scotland

When you’re under the weather and you Google your symptoms in an attempt to convince yourself that you are about to die, spare a thought for Jean Landess, whose perusal of Chambers’s Encyclopaedia was the beginning of a tragic chain of events. In May 1868, 39-year-old Mrs Landess, of Paisley, …

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A miraculous change right away quick

Last October I blogged about the Magic Foot Drafts, a remedy for rheumatism that required the patient to stick pine-tar-coated oilcloth plasters to the soles of their feet. This was supposed to draw out uric acid through the pores, but as Samuel Hopkins Adams said in The Great American Fraud, …

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Cameron the Piss-Prophet

It is surprising the number of Persons that apply daily from 11 o’clock till 3, at No. 84, Wells-street, Oxford-street, to consult Dr. Cameron, who discovers disorders by an inspection of the morning urine, and although Dr. C.’s method is singular, it it (sic) a well known fact, that he …

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The Continued Adventures of Baron Spolasco

In the last post, we left Baron Spolasco recovering from a traumatic two nights on a storm-battered rock after a shipwreck claimed the life of his eight-year old son. . After writing his Narrative of the Wreck of the Steamer Killarney, the Baron at last made it to Bristol, where …

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Baron Spolasco and the Wreck of the Killarney

On 19 January 1838, the steamer Killarney set sail from Cork, bound for Bristol. On board were 37 people and 600 pigs, and ahead of them was the most violent storm in more than half a century. The steamer was forced to turn back, and anchored at Cove for a …

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