Mini book review: “Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam”

by Keena Kimmel

In 1917, after working as a snake oil salesman in a traveling road show, John R. Brinkley worked at a meatpacking company where he was struck by the vigorous mating activities of the soon-to-be slaughtered goats. Later, after he’d established a medical practice in Milford, Kansas, (and purchased a $500 diploma from the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City), a farmer visited him complaining of a sagging libido. Recalling those goats, the doctor joked that what he needed were some goat glands. Up for anything, (well, most anything) the patient consented, and Brinkley obliged. Remarkably, the transplant was successful.

Despite a high mortality rate, “Goat-Gland” Brinkley is said to have performed so many operations that Kansas ran low on goats. His technique became a cure-all, and although critics abounded, he continued for almost two decades.

Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam,” by Pope Brock, tells the true tale of not only Brinkley but of determined quack buster Morris Fishbein, who vowed to ruin him. Their lengthy game of cat and mouse only provoked Brinkley to new heights, as he masterfully utilized broadcasting, advertising, and the already shady realm of politics to his advantage.

Keena KimmelOwner of White Rabbit Books and Curiosities


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