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Medicine show

medicine - show - 1800s - USA


A medicine show is a traveling horse and buggy team, most common in 19th century United States, which peddles miracle medications and other products between various entertainment acts. The most common product associated with medicine shows is an elixir which is touted to cure diseases, smooth facial wrinkles, remove stains in clothing, prolong life, or solve any number of common ailments (also known as snake oil). Entertainment often includes a freak show, a flea circus, musical acts, magic tricks, jokes, and storytelling.

Several modern musical acts have named themselves after this old time phenomenon, including Old Crow Medicine Show and Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicine_show [Mar 2006]

Medicine show advertising

Another method of publicity undertaken mostly by smaller firms was the "medicine show," a travelling circus of sorts which offered vaudeville style entertainments on a small scale, and which climaxed in a pitch for the nostrum being sold. Muscleman acts were especially popular on these tours, for this enabled the salesman to tout the physical vigour offered by the potion he was selling. Shills were frequently employed by the showmen, who would step forward from the crowd and offer "unsolicited" testimonials about the benefits of the medicine for sale. Oftentimes, the nostrum was manufactured and bottled in the same wagon that the show travelled in. The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company became one of the largest and most successful medicine show operators; their shows had an American Indian or Wild West theme, and employed many Native Americans as spokespeople. The medicine show lived on in American folklore and Western movies long after they had vanished from public meeting places.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_medicine#Patent_medicines_and_advertising [Feb 2005]

Remnants in the 20th century

But this was not Hollywood promotion. In fact, Hollywood spent 20 years campaigning to get rid of movies like Mom and Dad. This was the last wave of the 19th-century medicine shows -- part biology lesson, part sideshow, part morality play, part medical "shock footage" -- and to this day many old-timers regard it as the purest and most successful exploitation film in history. It played continuously for 23 years, still booking drive-ins as late as 1977, and grossed an estimated $100 million. --Joe Bob Briggs, http://reason.com/0311/fe.jb.kroger.shtml, Nov 2003

See also Mom And Dad

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937 (2005) - Various Artists

Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows 1926-1937 (2005) - Various Artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Top 10 Reissue of the Year - MOJO Jan 2006
Rare tracks from the heyday of the snake oil vendors. Weird folk and blackface balladry for Harry Smith Anthology addict.

Old Weird America was a term coined by music writer Greil Marcus. He used it to describe the often eerie country, blues and folk music featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music, and on Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes.

The term has been revived via the musical genre called New Weird America. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Weird_America [Mar 2006]

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