CHAPTER LVII. QUACK DOCTORS.

Many years ago a sharp-witted scamp appeared in one of the European countries, and offered for sale a pill, which he declared to be a sure protection against earthquakes. Absurd as was the assertion, he sold large quantities of his nostrum, and grew rich on the proceeds. The credulity which enriched this man, is still a marked characteristic of the human race, and often strikingly exhibits itself in this country. The quack doctors, or medical impostors, to whom we shall devote this chapter, live upon it and do all in their power to encourage it.

There are quite a number of such men in New York, and they offer to cure all manner of diseases. Some offer their wares for a small sum, others charge enormous prices. Frequently one of these men will personate half a dozen different characters. The newspapers are full of their advertisements, some of which are really unfit for the columns of a respectable journal. Besides these, they send thousands of circulars, through the mails, to persons in various parts of the country, setting forth the horrors of certain diseases, and offering to cure them for a fixed sum. The circular contains an elaborate description of the symptoms or premonitory signs of these diseases. A very large number of persons, reading these descriptions, really come to the conclusion that they are affected in the manner stated by the quack. So great is the power of the imagination in these cases, that sound healthy men are, sometimes, absolutely led to fancy themselves in need of medical attention. A short conversation with their regular physicians, would soon undeceive them, but they foolishly send their money to the author of the circular in question, and request a quantity of his medicine for the purpose of trying it. The nostrum is received in due time, and is accompanied by a second circular, in which the patient is coolly informed that he must not expect to be cured by one bottle, box, or package, as the case may be, but that five or six, or sometimes a dozen will be necessary to complete the cure, especially if the case is as desperate and stubborn as the letter applying for the medicine seems to indicate. Many are foolish enough to take the whole half dozen bottles or packages, and in the end are no better in health than they were at first. Indeed they are fortunate if they are not seriously injured by the doses they have taken. They are disheartened in nine cases out of ten, and are, at length, really in need of good medical advice. They have paid the quack more money than a good practitioner would demand for his services, and have only been injured by their folly.

It may be safely said that no honest and competent physician will undertake to treat cases by letter. No one worthy of patronage will guarantee a cure in any case, for an educated practitioner understands that cases are many and frequent where the best human skill may be exerted in vain. Further than this, a physician of merit will not advertise himself in the newspapers, except to announce the location of his office or residence. Such physicians are jealous of their personal and professional reputations, and are proud of their calling, which is justly esteemed one of the noblest on earth. They are men of humanity and learning, and they take, perhaps, more pleasure in relieving suffering than in making money. If a patient cannot pay for their services, they give them free in the name of the Great Healer of all ills. They have no such things as private remedies. They use their knowledge for the good of mankind, and are prompt to make known their discoveries, so that all the world may enjoy the benefit, they themselves being rewarded with the fame of their inventions.

Not so with the quacks. A few have some medical knowledge, and are even graduates of regular colleges, but the majority have neither medical knowledge nor skill. They know their remedies are worthless, and they offer them only to make money. They know in many cases that their nostrums will inflict positive injury upon their victims; but they are careless of the harm they do. They live upon human misery.

We may safely assure the reader that not one single physician, so called, who conducts his business by means of advertisements or circulars, is really competent to treat the cases he professes to cure, and that no one knows this better than himself. Do not answer any advertisement you may see in the newspapers. They are worthless. Above all do not take the medicines sent you by the advertisers. Some of them are poisonous substances. If you doubt this assertion, take the compound to any druggist of your acquaintance, and ask him to analyze it, and tell you what it is worth as a healing agent. If you need medical advice, go to some physician that you know and have confidence in. Don't put yourself in the hands of a man you know nothing of, who would just as soon poison you as heal you, and who pursues his calling, in most cases, in violation of the laws of the land. Let quack doctors, or, in other words, advertising doctors, alone.

                     PATENT MEDICINES.

As a general rule, the various medicines advertised as "specifics," or "panaceas," for various ills, are humbugs. They are worthless. Many of them are made up of harmless drugs, which can do no harm, if, as is very certain, they do no good; but others are composed of very dangerous substances. The remedies advertised for "private diseases" rarely fail to make the patient worse, either by aggravating the disease itself, or by permanently injuring the constitution. The "Elixirs of Life," "Life Rejuvenators," "Vital Fluids," etc., are either dangerous poisons, or worthless draughts. They contain mercury to a very large extent; and anyone acquainted with the properties of this substance can easily understand how great is the danger of using them. The certificates accompanying them, as testimonials of their merits, are simply forgeries. Some rascally proprietors have not hesitated to use the names of prominent public men, without either their knowledge or consent, in this way. Some of these forgeries have been discovered and exposed, but the majority pass unnoticed. Rest assured, dear reader, that men of character are very chary of such use of their names.

The various bitters which flood the country are only cheap whiskey, or rum and water, made nauseous with drugs. They have no virtue whatever, as medicinal agents, and merely injure the tone of the stomach. Their chief result is to establish the habit of intemperance. They are more fiery than ordinary liquors, and more destructive in their effects.

The various medicinal wines which are offered for sale, are decoctions of elderberry juice and kindred substances, and are more hurtful than beneficial.

The "washes," "lotions," "toilet fluids," etc., are generally apt to produce skin diseases. They contain, in almost every instance, substances which are either directly or indirectly poisonous to the skin.

The "tooth washes," "powders," and "dentrifices," are hurtful. They crack or wear away the enamel of the teeth, leave the nerve exposed, and cause the teeth to decay. If you are wise, dear reader, you will never use a dentrifice, unless you know what it is made of. The principal constituent of these dentrifices is a powerful acid, and there are some which contain large quantities of sulphuric acid, one single application of which will destroy the best teeth in the world.

The "hair dyes," advertised under so many different names, contain such poisons as nitrate of silver, oxide of lead, acetate of lead, and sulphate of copper. These are fatal to the hair, and generally injure the scalp.

The "ointments" and "onguents," for promoting the growth of whiskers and moustaches, are either perfumed and colored lard, or poisonous compounds, which contain quick lime, or corrosive sublimate, or some kindred substance. If you have any acquaintance who has ever used this means of covering his face with a manly down, ask him which came first, the beard, or a troublesome eruption on the face.

                     RETIRED PHYSICIANS.

One of the popular "dodges" of the rogues who sell such compounds as we have been describing, is to insert such an advertisement as the following in the newspapers of the country.

"A RETIRED PHYSICIAN, of forty years' practice, discovered, while in India, a sure remedy for consumption, bronchitis, colds, etc. Having relinquished his practice, he has no further use for the remedy, and will send it free on receipt of a three cent stamp to pay return postage."

Sometimes the advertisement is that of a "retired clergyman," and sometimes it is in the following form:

"A lady who has been cured of great nervous debility, after many years of misery, desires to make known to all fellow sufferers, the sure means of relief. Address, enclosing a stamp, Mrs. - - , P. O. box - , New York, and the prescription will be sent free by return mail."

A single moment's reflection ought to convince any sensible person that the parties thus advertising are humbugs. It costs a great deal to advertise, and as the announcements we refer to can be seen in every paper in the land, it is safe to say that the "retired physician" and "clergyman," or the "nervous lady," expend each from five to ten thousand dollars per annum in advertising. The reader will see at a glance, that, however benevolent such parties may be, they cannot afford to give away so much money every year. The manner in which the business is managed is as follows:

The "retired physician" and "clergyman," and the "nervous lady," are one and the same individual. The man personating them is an ignorant knave. He scatters his advertisements broadcast over the land. Letters come, asking for his valuable recipe. He sends the prescription, and notifies the party asking for it, that if the articles named in it cannot be procured by him at any drug store convenient to him, he, the "retired physician," "clergyman," or "nervous lady," will furnish them, upon application, at a certain sum, (generally averaging five dollars,) which he assures him is very cheap, as the drugs are rare and expensive. The articles named in the prescription are utterly unknown to any druggist in the world, and the names are the production of the quack's own brains, and, as a matter of course, the patient is unable to procure them at home, and sends an order for them with the price, to the "retired physician," "clergyman," or "nervous lady," and in return receives a nostrum compounded of drugs, which any apothecary could have furnished at one half the expense. In this way the "benevolence" of the quack is very profitable. Men have grown rich in this business, and it is carried on to an amazing extent in this city. It is done in violation of the law, and the benevolent individual not unfrequently falls into the hands of the police, but, as soon as released, he opens his business under a new name. As long as there are fools and dupes in the world, so long will the "retired physician" find an extensive practice.

Any one who chooses to do so, can verify our statement by a simple application at the police headquarters of this city. The accomplished and energetic Superintendent of the Metropolitan force is a stern foe to swindlers of all kinds, and he can furnish any one who desires it with more interesting details on this subject than we can possibly give. One proof of our assertions is the fact that these quack doctors and patent medicine proprietors rarely use their own names in their business. They operate under a variety of aliases.