Snake Oil Salesmen~

After my recent hospital stay, I thought it would be fun to repost something I shared last year. I know that we all wish for more truth in advertising. Especially from the pharmaceutical industry. There is not much truth in their advertising these days. I know there are many , many doctors and nurses who genuinely have compassion and care for their patients. I have had the good fortune to be treated by some of them. But I’m not so sure about the big-pharma companies. I think that the majority of them are still snake oil salesmen, profiting from other people’s suffering. In November of 1905 one of these patent medicine men sent a certain Mr. Mark Twain a letter including his advertising leaflet for his medicine “The Elixir of Life”, which claimed to , among other things, cure meningitis, which killed Twain’s daughter in 1896, and diptheria, which killed his 19 month old son. Following here is his letter to that salesman. Read it and laugh, and then read it again, and say as I did, “Hooray, Mr. Twain! Hooray! ”


J.H. Todd
1212 Webster Street
San Francisco, Cal

Dear Sir,
Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good, and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots , stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me, and always for a moment , they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake , and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu! Adieu! Adeiu!

Mark Twain