Medicine Show

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MEDICINE SHOW, an early-nineteenth-century technique for selling patent medicines. To sell this bottled magic, the showman provided a free show at town squares, street corners, or wherever he could draw a crowd. Claiming special herbal knowledge, he claimed to be Indian or part Indian, or was accompanied by someone of complexion and garb professedly Indian. He employed black-face comedians. Songs and repartee jokes were his stock in trade, and he was an artist at "kidding" the crowd while he mixed in praise of the supernal drug.


Anderson, Ann, and Heinrich R. Falk. Snake Oil, Hustlers, and Hambones: The American Medicine Show. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2000.

J. FrankDobie/c. w.

See alsoMedicine, Alternative ; Minstrel Shows .

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Medicine Show

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