Home » Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

the-greatest-scams - Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

Renaissance brought with it a tremendous faith in the human mind possibilities, which countless fraudsters took advantage pretending to be inventors of miraculous elixirs. Since then science reached the greatest development in Italy, there was a lot of charlatans there.

the-greatest-scams - Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

Quackery here was quite usual occupation, and Cerreto located in the south of the country appeared a training center for medical impostors. By the beginning of the XVII century immigrants from Cerreto conducted their business throughout Italy, and the word “cherretano” (born in Cerreto) came to signify their “profession”, transformed later into French “charlatan”.


the-greatest-scams - Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, “The Quack”, 1756

To attract customers, sellers of miraculous elixirs and ointments staged theatrical performances, entertained the audience, and then offered to buy some potion.

In the 18th century English quacks came up with some marketing know-how. Now, thanks to advertising in the press an ill person can self-diagnose himself on the basis of the symptoms set out in the advertisement, and then order the medicine he liked by mail.

In fact, thanks to newspaper advertising a new type of charlatans who had received a patent for the invention of products, and then made money on their distribution appeared. According to researchers, about 10% of advertisements of those times belonged to quacks. And as newspaper advertising at that time was still a relatively new phenomenon, the effect of it was impressive.

the-greatest-scams - Quackery: From Renaissance to the Present Day (Part 1)

An advert produced by the Minnesota Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company in 1895 claiming its cigars didn’t damage health because they were pure and scientific.

XIX century gave the world a true revolution in medicine, and the “tribe” of charlatans couldn’t help taking advantage of this opportunity. a new type – corporate charlatans – was added to showmen, patent holders and pseudo-scientists that existed in the previous century. The US became the home for large-scale quackery, where the habit of doing business in a big way existed from the first years of independence. Around 1805 Thomas Dayot, a former shoemaker, got settled in Philadelphia, where he began to patent and sell his drugs. Though their healing properties were rather dubious, Dayot managed to steal competitive edge by good marketing. He proclaimed himself a doctor, who had allegedly worked for many years in London and the West Indies.

However, in spite of Thomas Dayton’s brilliant achievements, on the whole the XIX century remained the era of charlatans-loners with mobile shows like the tent circus. On both sides of the ocean people were happy to buy all kinds of medicine for all diseases produced by a semi-artisan way and paid for consultations to self-proclaimed stars.

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