Course Details

970: Snake Oil Salesmen: Health Quackery in America Past and Present

July 10-13
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM

This class will examine the history of health quackery in America from Colonial times through the present day. Among the topics covered will be the growth of patent medicines, which claimed to cure diseases from tuberculosis to cancer, and the coloful advertising techniques used to hawk them, from calendars and trade cards to traveling medicine shows. Many consisted of relatively harmless herbs, but some contained substantial amounts of alcohol and opiates. We will also discuss quack medical devices such as electric belts. Attention will also be devoted to the development of federal regulation of health products beginning in the 20th century. Yet, as we shall see, health quackery remains very much alive today

Class Type: Lecture and Discussion

Class Format: Online

Hours of Reading: Less than 1 hour/session

Study Group Leader(s):

John Parascandola

John Parascandola, Ph.D., has taught history of medicine, pharmacy and science at the Universities of Wisconsin and Maryland, He served as a historian in the Federal government for over 20 years and is the author of nummerous books and articles on topics in the history of the health sciences. He has taught nine previous OLLI classes.