The word "quack" is an abbreviation of "quacksalver"
a 16th-century word meaning a peddler who sold fraudulent medicines in the street.
Since to quack meant to peddle, to "quacksalve" meant to peddle a salve
or ointment, especially one that allegedly could cure any malady. The charlatan
who did this peddling was a quacksalver. Today a "quack" means either
a fake or unethical medical doctor.
medical quackery has been around for centuries, it seems to have flowered the
most in the United States. The medicine wagons of the snake oil peddlers in the
1800s later gave way to much more sophisticated scams.
was one of the most popular frauds in the 1920s and 1930s. The quack doctor used
a small wooden box with a number of holes in the front and a light bulb inside.
A number of wires, a dial, a pedal, and a glass tube were added to make the box
impressive. Thin pieces of colored paper were pasted over the holes.
patient would moisten a slip of paper with his tongue and then drop it into a
slot on top of the box. The quack doctor claimed he could see a letter through
one of the holes that would diagnose the patient's illness. For example, an A
meant the patient was suffering from arthritis. Radionic doctors claimed they
could lengthen a patient's legs, cause amputated fingers to grow back, and fill
dental cavities, as well as kill dandelions over any specified distance and fertilize
fields as far as 70 miles away.
fraud was the Spectro-Chrome therapy machine. The quack doctor explained that
each color had significance. For instance, red energized the liver, blue built
vitality, lemon yellow built bones, purple prevented malaria, and so on. When
these colors were not in harmony, disease or other physical ailments resulted.
quack doctor claimed his Spectro-Chrome machine would attune all the color waves
of a person's body to bring good health. As bizarre as it sounds, by 1940 he had
sold enough of his machines to earn him over $ 1 million.
are countless other medical frauds in our history, most of which were invented
in the late 1800s or early 1900s. A few examples are the Homo-Vibra Ray, whose
practitioners claimed the ability of diagnosing illnesses even if the patient
was a great distance away; the electric brush designed to relieve headaches and
promote hair growth; the galvanic eyeglasses said to improve eyesight and prevent
nasal congestion; and the radio disease killer, which was an impressive-looking
box of electronic gear that the patient could use to cure himself.
there are many reputable alternatives to standard medical techniques, such as
homeopathy, naturopathy, medicinal herbs and flowers, various touch therapies
and others. One will always find a few quacks, of course... whether it's traditional
medicine or natural healing practices.