The day mankind began walking upright he started looking for things to improve and prolong health. Along with a few useful remedies, hundreds of cures more wishful than useful were concocted – and some were downright dangerous.
One of the most successful proprietary medicines was Swamp Root, produced by the Kilmer family of Broome County, N.Y. About 1878, Dr. S. Andral Kilmer devised a formula of roots and herbs augmented with a healthy dose of alcohol. Touted as an absolute cure for kidney, liver and bladder problems, Swamp Root was sold world wide.
With only a slight variation in the contents Kilmer also produced remedies for cough and consumption, female disabilities, and heart palpitations. The ills did indeed vanish … as attested to by everyone from grannies to toddlers who slurped down enough of the syrup to get an alcohol buzz. Even the temperate used the medications liberally not realizing Demon Alcohol was creating the temporary relief.
Dr. Kilmer opened a water cure sanitarium in Sanitaria Springs and a canceratorium in Binghamton. Both establishments were said to produce miraculous healing. The canceratorium claimed to completely remove any cancer without surgery, using only plasters smeared with a secret ingredient.
A large laboratory and bottling facility opened, capable of producing thousands of bottles of tonics daily. When a slight downturn in the economy occurred in 1895, the Kilmers did not limit their lifestyle. Instead, the dozens of women working in the factories packaging bottles – who earned 10 cents for every thousand packed – were given a reduction in pay to 7 cents per thousand.
When Andral’s nephew Willis Sharp Kilmer took over the company operations in 1886, his promotional schemes garnered a vast fortune for the family coffers. Elaborate estates, a boat club on the Susquehanna River and a mountaintop lodge in Windsor soon filled the local landscape.
Willis S. Kilmer was a flamboyant character with a massive sense of entitlement. In 1904 he became enraged by the notoriety he was receiving in the local newspapers. Especially aggravating to him was when a Kilmer domestic skirmish was reported in detail, describing how he had ended an argument by clobbering his wife with a beer bottle.
Kilmer vowed to put all the newspapers in Binghamton out of business and proceeded to construct a skyscraper (12 stories) to house his own newspaper. Over the next few years he did eliminate the competing newspapers.
Another Kilmer enterprise was a world class racing stable and stud farm called Sun Briar Court. In 1917 the farm produced a Kentucky Derby winner – the great race horse Exterminator.
Postcards documenting the Kilmer family enterprises and estates have survived as a permanent record of the Kilmer dynasty.
Historical people accused of quackery (Source: Wikipedia)
Thomas Allinson (1858-1918), founder of naturopathy. Amongst other things, he believed that drinking tea and smoking was bad for health while a diet of wholemeal bread and vegetarianism plus regular exercise, swimming and fresh air was good. His views and publication of them led to him being labeled a quack and being struck off by the General Medical Council for infamous conduct in a professional respect.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), founder of homeopathy. Hahnemann believed that all diseases were caused by “miasms,” which he defined as irregularities in the patient’s vital force. He also said that illnesses could be treated by substances that in a healthy person produced similar symptoms to the illness, in extremely low concentrations, with the therapeutic effect increasing with dilution and repeated shaking.
L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) was the founder of the Church of Scientology. He was an American science fiction writer, former United States Navy officer, and creator of Dianetics.
John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) was a medical doctor in Battle Creek, Mich., who ran a sanitarium using holistic methods, with a particular focus on nutrition, enemas and exercise. Kellogg was an advocate of vegetarianism, and is best known for the invention of the corn flake breakfast cereal with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was a French chemist best known for his remarkable breakthroughs in microbiology. His experiments confirmed the germ theory of disease, also reducing mortality from puerperal fever (childbed), and he created the first vaccine for rabies. He is best known to the general public for showing how to stop milk and wine from going sour – this process came to be called pasteurization. His hypotheses initially met with much hostility, and he was accused of quackery on multiple occasions. However, he is now regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch.
Lovisa Årberg (1803-1866), the first Swedish female doctor. Årberg was met with strong resistance from male doctors and was accused of quackery. During the formal examination she was acquitted of all charges and allowed to practice medicine in Stockholm even though it was forbidden for women in the 1820s. She later received a medal for her work.
Linus Pauling (1901-1994), a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Pauling spent much of his later career arguing for the treatment of somatic and psychological diseases with orthomolecular medicine. One of his most famous claims was that the common cold could be cured with massive doses of vitamin C. These claims were initially met with much enthusiasm, especially amongst the general public, though subsequent double-blind studies indicated no effect beyond that of a placebo.