Antiquackery classics posted

Posted 29 June 2015

Quackwatch has posted the complete texts of two volumes of Nostrums and Quackery: Articles on the Nostrum Evil, Quackery and Allied Matters Affecting the Public Health; Reprinted, With or Without Modifications, from The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Volume I was published in 1912.
Volume II was published in 1921.

The books, which total more than 1,500 pages, are no longer copyrighted.

Some extracts:

Nostrums and Quackery
2nd ed, 1912.

Page 521


“When the Food and Drugs Act was passed in 1906, many makers of sophisticated food-stuffs as well as nostrum* manufacturers, took the attitude that the law was more or less a joke. They looked on it as merely the outward and visible sign of the fruits of the campaign that had been carried on in lay and medical publications against “patent medicines”** and food adulteration. As such these same manufacturers imagined that it would be but a few short months before the easily-forgetting public would cease to be interested in the subject, and the law would lapse into a state of innocuous desuetude.*** In the latter prophecy their powers of divination have proved to be poor.”

Preface to second edition

“Quackery does not die easily. Exposures of the frauds perpetrated by quacks and nostrum venders do good only to the extent that such exposes educate the public. When the veil of mystery is torn from the medical faker, the naked sordidness and inherent worthlessness that remains suffices to make quackery its own greatest condemnation.”

Vol II preface, 1921 page 4
“The matter that appears in this book has been prepared and written in no spirit of malice and with no object except that of laying before the public certain facts the knowledge of which is essential to a proper conception of community health.” This is also applicable to CAMCheck.

*  Definition: nostrum

  1. A medicine whose effectiveness is unproved and whose ingredients are usually secret; a quack remedy.
  2. A favorite but usually ineffective remedy for problems or evils.

** Patent medicines are NOT medicines that have been patented. They are instead proprietary (i.e.,
“secret formula”) and unproved remedies advertised and sold directly to the public.

*** disuse


Also of interest:

by Peggy M. Baker, Director & Librarian,
Pilgrim Society & Pilgrim Hall Museum


“19th century America witnessed many rambunctious manifestations of the entrepreneurial spirit. One of the most flamboyant was the “patent medicine” industry. Patent medicines are NOT medicines that have been patented. They are instead proprietary (i.e., “secret formula”) and unproved remedies advertised and sold directly to the public.”

“The growth of the patent medicine industry was rooted in the medical shortcomings of the early 19th century. There were few doctors and those expensive. Prospects were not cheerful even for those who could afford professional medical care. Knowledge of human physiology and of the causes and progress of disease was extremely limited (it was not until 1861 that the theory of germs was first published by Louis Pasteur). Routine health care in the 19th century was generally provided by the mother of the family, relying on home remedies, recipes for which could often be found in cookbooks. Even the most skillful mother realized, however, that she could not combat the terrible diseases that became endemic during the course of the 19th century – typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, cholera.”

“The Pure Food & Drug Act was the beginning of the end for the patent medicine industry. The law did not eliminate the use of alcohol or opiates in patent medicines, but it did legislate that all ingredients had to be listed clearly on the label. And with an informed public, the sales of patent medicines declined precipitously.”

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