Category:
Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Seelye’s Wasa Tusa

Patent medicine earned Dr. A. B. Seelye a fortune that allowed him to build a fine mansion that is open to the public today.



What was in his fabled Wasa Tusa?



A.B. Seelye made his fortune in patent medicines with the A.B. Seelye Medical Company. At one time he had over 500 salesmen traveling through 14 states. The Wasa Tusa they sold contained 65 percent “non-beverage alcohol, chloroform and sulphuric ether.”


Source of quote.

You can read his digitized ALMANAC, HEALTH GUIDE AND COOKBOOK here.




Posted By: Paul - Tue Sep 07, 2021 - Comments (0)
Category: Domestic, Money, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century

Polyform, Edison’s Topical Anesthetic





American inventor and businessman Thomas Alva Edison is legendary for his contributions to such technologies as the lightbulb, the telephone, the phonograph, and motion pictures, among many others.1In his lifetime, Edison obtained 1,093 US patents and some 1,239 patents in other countries. Little known among these efforts was his “improved anesthetic compound.”

In the summer of 1882, George F. Shrady (Founder and Editor, Medical Record 1866–1904) (1837–1907), reported that Thomas Edison invented a new anesthetic made of chloroform, ether, alcohol, and camphor and had applied for British and German patents.2The witty but misinformed editor added, “Edison may wish to use it on his stockholders until electric light was in successful operation.”

In fact, the “anesthetic” actually was an analgesic liniment that Edison had prepared in early 1878. He named it Polyform and advertised it for “neurologic pain.” Polyform was a mixture of chloroform, ether, camphor gum, alcohol, chloral hydrate, morphine, and oils of peppermint and clove. Edison believed that his compound’s various analgesics would potentiate each other and that the mixture would attack pain in a “shotgun manner.”3


More info here.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jun 24, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Celebrities, Inventions, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century

Rengo fruit for obesity

A "remedy for obesity" marketed circa 1906. It supposedly was made from the "Rengo fruit". In Nostrums and Quackery (1912) the American Medical Association offered this analysis:

Rengo used to be known as "Rengo Fruit" and the claim was made that its active constituents were derived from a luscious tropical fruit which grows in clusters similar to grapes...

Rengo has been analyzed and, according to Dr. Kebler's analysis, contains: Thyroid gland, Poke root, Cascara, Cassia fistula.

That the prolonged administration of thyroid gland will sometimes bring about a marked reduction in weight is true but its use even under skilled medical supervision is fraught with danger. It is little less than criminal that ignorant quacks of Kellogg's type should be permitted to distribute indiscriminately drugs that have the potency for harm that is possessed by the thyroid preparations.

source: flickr



Posted By: Alex - Thu Jun 10, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1900s

Vapo Path

Creosote and naphthalene! My favorite medicines!








Posted By: Paul - Fri May 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1930s, 1940s

The Stimulator

The Stimulator, which sold for $79, promised to cure headaches, allergies, swollen joints, backaches, and more. It did this by delivering low-voltage electrical shocks to whatever body part was hurting.

However, the FDA shut down its manufacturer in 1997 noting that the device was actually a modified gas-grill igniter which cost about $2 to make.

More info: Museum of Quackery

Yoga Journal - Dec 1995



Greenville News - Jan 21, 1997

Posted By: Alex - Fri Apr 23, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1990s

Hair Popping

Hair popping was developed as a claimed cure for baldness around the 1950s. It involved pulling on the scalp until it made a popping sound. And yes, it was apparently quite painful.

Some details from Baldness: A Social History by Kerry Segrave.

Trained dietician and cosmetologist Rita Hartinger was the foremost practitioner of the "hair popping" technique of hair preservation and regrowth; she was working out of New York City in 1968. Eight years earlier she had learned the trade from its originator, hairdresser Marsha Lewis, since retired. Hartinger called herself a "professional hair popper," believing her method of scalp stimulation helped her customers keep whatever hair they had and perhaps sprout a new crop. "I make the hairs healthy.... When you lift up the scalp from the bone structure by popping, it stimulates circulation and nourishes the tissue. Then the hair is strengthened, and it is less likely to fall out," she said. A journalist who watched Rita in action reported that each tug on the scalp did indeed produce a "pop," and he described the sound further by writing it was "as if a kernel of popcorn had exploded on his head."

Hair popping, as a cure for baldness, fell out of fashion. But recently it's re-emerged as a fad on TikTok. Though it's now being called 'scalp popping'.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 21, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Hair and Hairstyling

Cow-Tongue Baldness Cure

Several sources have independently reported that the way to cure baldness is to have a cow lick your head.

Regina Leader-Post - Mar 8, 1984



Colombian hairdresser says he can lick baldness
November 29, 2000

PEREIRA, Colombia -- Want to lick hair loss? A Colombian hairdresser says he has found a way to lick baldness -- literally. His offbeat scalp treatment involves a special tonic and massage -- with a cow's tongue. "I feel more manly, more attractive to women," says customer Henry Gomez. "My friends even say 'What are you doing? You have more hair. You look younger.'"

Posted By: Alex - Sat Apr 10, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Cows, Hair and Hairstyling

Follies of the Madmen #504

I have never seen laxatives touted as a daily dose, rather than just as needed.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Mar 31, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Advertising, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Excrement, 1950s

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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