In 1917, after years of peddling worthless patent medicines with wondrous claims, John R. Brinkley set up a medical practice in the small town of
this was no ordinary doctor’s office. Dr. Brinkley had a new procedure
guaranteed to restore masculine virility and cure all manner of diseases. Soon
men from all over the globe were flocking to this tiny Kansas town, eager to
pay their $750, pick a goat from the pen, and be wheeled into the operating
room to have their scrotum sliced open and the goat’s testicles sewn inside so
that, as soon as the incisions healed, they would be as randy as a billygoat.
Soon women were getting into the act too and having goat ovaries implanted
inside them in the hope of conceiving. Even deep in the Great Depression, Dr.
Brinkley was in the money, bringing in $12 million a year when the average doctor
was lucky to earn $3,000. He
enthusiastically seized on advances in radio broadcasting to give questionable
medical advice, advertise his products, promote politics, and popularize
country and hillbilly music. Kansas
’s richest and most famous
doctor soon had the American Medical Association’s quackbuster on his tail. Dr.
Morris Fishbein was determined to put Dr. Brinkley out of business and expose
the goat gland operation for the fraud it really was, and a dangerous one at
that, as many developed infections and died. America
This is another fine example of non-fiction writing at its best, it gives the reader a window not just its subject’s life, but also his world. I’ve always been fascinated by the old patent medicines that promised miracles in a glass bottle, in fact an antique cod liver oil bottle is on my desk as I write this, so I really enjoyed this one. If you like tales of audacious conmen, I think you’ll enjoy meeting Dr. Brinkley and his formidable adversary. This would also be a great book for anyone who enjoys interesting non-fiction books that are not dry and dull, or the history of medicine or the quacks and fraudsters who have played a role in it.