By Karla Burkitt
STEP RIGHT UP, LADIES AND GENTS!
Dr. Acker's English Elixir, Boker's Stomach Bitters, Cooper's Magic Balm, Kickapoo Cough Cure, Roback's Blood and Liver Pills...
Before the FDA and truth-in-advertising there was a time when anyone with an imagination and a bathtub or washtub could create a wonder drug and put it on the market. Following the Civil War hundreds of 'doctors' and experts sprang up, each with their special 'blend' of secret ingredients, to cure everything from hair loss to cancer. Patent medicine sales soared between 1870 and 1930 and most of those products were never patented at all. In 1905 a writer for Collier's Weekly estimated that Americans would spend about seventy-five million dollars purchasing patent medicines in that year alone.