THE TOADSTOOL MILLIONAIRES by James Harvey Young

THE TOADSTOOL MILLIONAIRES

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A Social History of Patent Medicine in America before Federal Regulation"", this is a fascinating pharmacopia of all the remedies and restoratives, pills and purges and powders with which a gullible America dosed herself until the passage of Wiley's law in 1906. From the materia medica of pre-Revolutionary days (the more abhorrent the cure- the more beneficial), to our legacy from the mother country, this reaches the critical date of 1796 when Elisha Perkins secured the first patent for a medical device- metal tractors- which did not long survive their inventor. From that day onward, the national appetite for nostrums increased to the point where the country spent 75 million dollars a year on patent medicines, stimulated by the fact that doctors practised a frighteningly ""rugged regimen"" and that disease ran an epidemic and often fatal course. These are the annals then of unorganized medicine, of the powerful physicking which enabled every man to be his own doctor, of mountebanks, of medicine shows, or preposterous advertising and billposting, of the national thirst for bitters (bottled by the millions) and sarsaparilla syrup, up to the 20th century and the restrictive legislation which followed on the heels of increasing criticism and magazine muckraking.... While primarily an extensive research project, it should not be a drug on the popular market- it is entertainingly administered to reach the readers say of the Gerald Carson books.

Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press