by Samuel Hopkins Adams

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Among the most loathsome products of our native commercial greed is the patent medicine industry, "The Great American Fraud," as its historian has called it. In 1907 this historian wrote:

"Gullible America will spend this year some seventy-five millions of dollars in the purchase of patent medicines. In consideration of this sum it will swallow huge quantities of alcohol, an appalling amount of opiates and narcotics, a wide assortment of varied drugs ranging from powerful and dangerous heart depressants to insidious liver stimulants; and, far in excess of all other ingredients, undiluted fraud. For fraud, exploited by the most skillful of advertising bunco men, is the basis of the trade."

One by one Mr. Adams tells about these medical fakes: habit-forming laxatives, head-ache powders full of acetanilid, soothing-syrups and catarrh-cures full of opium and cocaine, cock-tails subtly disguised as "bitters", "sarsaparillas", and "topics". He shows how the fake testimonials are made up and exploited; how the confidential letters, telling the secret troubles of men and women, are collected by tens and hundreds of thousands and advertised and sold—so that the victim, as he begins to lose faith in one fake, finds another at hand, fully informed as to his weakness. He quotes the amazing "Red Clause" in the contracts which the patent-medicine makers have with thousands of daily and weekly papers, whereby the makers are able to control the press of the country and prevent legislation against the "Great American Fraud."

There are a thousand religious papers in America, weekly and monthly; and what is their attitude on this question? Mr. Adams tells us:

Whether because church-going people are more trusting, and therefore more easily be-fooled than others, or from some more obscure reason, many of the religious papers fairly reek with patent medicine fakes.

He gives us many pages of specific instances:

Dr. Smith belongs to the brood of cancer vampires. He is a patron and prop of religious journalism. It is his theory that the easiest prey is to be found among readers of church papers. Moreover he has learned from his father-in-law (who built a small church out of blood-money) to capitalize his own sectarian associations, and when confronted recently with a formal accusation he replied, with an air of injured innocence, that he was a regular attendant at church, and could produce an endorsement from his minister.

And here is the "Church Advocate", of Harrisburg, Pa., which publishes quack advertisements disguised as editorials. One of them Mr. Adams paraphrases:

As Dr. Smith is, on the face of his own statements, a self-branded swindler and rascal, you run no risk in assuming that the Rev. C. H. Forney, D. D., L. L. D., in acting as his journalistic supporter for pay, is just such another as himself!

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014062572
Publisher: OGB
Publication date: 01/27/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 890,429
File size: 2 MB

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