Working Over Time

Rock Stars and Rural Remedies - Snake Oil Salesmen in Reconstruction America

Episode Summary

(recorded over zoom) 19th-century “medicine shows” marketed cure-alls in a moveable feast of showmanship that compelled rural pain sufferers to exchange hard-earned cash for “miracle” elixirs, tonics, and liniments. Most of these treatments were dubious at best, dangerous at worst. But these shows were more than just a particularly vivid chapter in America’s long history of rewarding savvy hustlers peddling questionable products. The medicine show was also a vitally important social phenomenon, providing unique social and economic mobility for people who had talent, but were otherwise shut out from the opportunities of post-Reconstruction America. Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she speaks with writer and historian Deb Hunter about the role of Snake Oil Salesmen in the early days of the pharmaceutical industry.

Episode Notes

(recorded over zoom) 19th-century “medicine shows” marketed cure-alls in a moveable feast of showmanship that compelled rural pain sufferers to exchange hard-earned cash for “miracle” elixirs, tonics, and liniments. Most of these treatments were dubious at best, dangerous at worst. But these shows were more than just a particularly vivid chapter in America’s long history of rewarding savvy hustlers peddling questionable products. The medicine show was also a vitally important social phenomenon, providing unique social and economic mobility for people who had talent, but were otherwise shut out from the opportunities of  post-Reconstruction America. Join Dr. Karen Bellinger as she speaks with writer and historian Deb Hunter about the role of Snake Oil Salesmen in the early days of the pharmaceutical industry.