June 1963

The Toadstool Millionaires: A Social History of Patent Medicines in America Before Federal Regulation

Author Affiliations

By James Harvey Young. Price, $6. Pp. 282, with 16 plates. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1961.

Arch Intern Med. 1963;111(6):844-845. doi:10.1001/archinte.1963.03620300164035

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One of the depressing losses to history is felt in the fact that until recent times no group of pirates has ever written its autobiography or had a good biographer set down a detailed account of how the booty was collected. Thus the apprentice pirate has to go it alone. James Harvey Young has produced a candid, relaxed and cheerful story in The Toadstool Millionaires, a social history of the large estates, palaces on the hills and the patent medicine crew who built them, an enchanting group of journeymen quacks, healers, and frauds who, occasionally with pure motives but usually with motives of pure profit, built fortunes based on the enchanting development of Epstean's Law which Wilfred Trotter described as the phenomenon of the ignorant gulling the innocent. Epstean's Law, by the way, reduced by Nock to its simplest coefficient, merely states there is no record in the history of

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