In the late 19th century, patent medicine became very popular for a variety of aches, ailments, and diseases. Often sold by traveling patent medicine shows, these many concoctions were often sold with colorful names and even more colorful claims. Despite the name, patent medicine, these elixirs and tonics were rarely patented.
As an effective method of publicity, the Patent Medicine Shows sold these many patent medicines towards the end of the traveling show complete with vaudeville-style entertainment, “Muscle Man” acts, magic tricks, and Native American and Wild West themes.
By the late 19th century, Medicine Shows flourished in the United States, especially in the Midwest and in the rural South.
The Medicine Man, often called Professor, or sometimes Doctor, was generally neither. They were quite talented showmen and story tellers.
With the Professor at the center, these patent medicine shows were often structured around entertainers who could be expected to draw a crowd of potential customers who would listen to, and then purchase, the miracle elixirs offered by the doctor.
The arrival of the patent medicine shows heavily advertised prior to the event with posters and banners displaying the time and place of the show and tickets for admission.
Sometimes the patent medicine shows were so large, that halls or hotels were booked for the troupe of entertainers, which might be enacted several times throughout the day and evening.
Often the patent medicine shows were held right on the street, attracting every passerby. Often, these remedies and elixirs were manufactured and bottled in the same wagon in which the show traveled.
This one hour 1983 historical documentary film about Patent Medicine Shows in America during the early years told by the people who made them happen. Enjoy!