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Quack medicines were especially prevalent in the British Empire for centuries, including in the American colonies.
The Quack medicine trade eventually became a victim of the Progressive movement's efforts to regulate business.
With the advent of electricity in the United States in the first decades of the 20th Century, Quack electrical devices also were widely manufactured. This 32 page booklet, published around 1900, is actually a thinly disguised advertisement for Dr. Muscular Weakness, Shortness of Breath on Slight Exertion, Spinal Troubles, Partial Paralysis, Locomotor Ataxia, Chronic or Acute Rheumatism, Sciatica, Neuralgia, Chronic Erypsipelas, Catarrh of the Stomach, Nervous Fits, St. Johnson that the prohibition of falsifications referred only to the ingredients of the medicine.


Most devices used mild electrical current or ultraviolet light and, like their liquid and pill counterparts, promised a multitude of cures. Vitus' Dance, Swelled Glands, Scrofula, Fever Sores, Rickets, After-Effects of Acute Diseases such as Fevers, All Female Weakness, Tardy or Irregular Periods, Leucorrhea, Suppression of the Menses, Loss of Vital Forces, Loss of Memory, Ringing in the Ears, Hysteria, etc. Some of the booklet is an alphabetical listing of things people dream about, and what those dreams mean. Adams returned to the attack with another series of articles in Collier's Weekly, and a collection of his essays were published by the American Medical Association in 1912. Johnson with the Sherley Amendment to the Pure Food and Drug Act, which prohibited labeling medicines with false therapeutic claims intended to defraud the purchaser (a standard difficult to prove). Two years later, congress passed the Harrison Narcotic Act, imposing limits on the amount of opium, opium-derived products, and cocaine allowed in products available to the public.


Others manufacturers found success through of the noble savage stereotype of the American Indian in product names and advertising. Some did have medicinal effects; for example mercury, silver and arsenic compounds may have helped some infections, willow bark contained salicylic acid (substance very similar to aspirin), and quinine from bark was an effective treatment for malaria.



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