The Patent Medicine Show
Early Form Of Traveling Entertainment With Medicine Shows
One of the earliest forms of outdoor show business was the ‘Patent Medicine Show‘. The brightly painted wagon of the medicine show was the backdrop for a performance that might include marionettes, magic or even a song and dance routine to get the crowds attention.
The blowoff always ended with the pitchman extolling the virtues of his homemade concoction with claims of miraculous curative powers for almost every kind of ill imaginable.
Although these wonderful old Patent Medicine Shows are long gone from the American landscape, their products are still around, slickly packaged as herbal supplements, diet pills and various potions, lotions and salves and making the same curative claims.
Today’s modern medicine show pitchman can be seen advertising on T V everyday, often dressed in a doctor’s coat, using the media version of the “snake oil sales pitch”. Herbal health remedies have become a billion dollar a year industry and are still mostly as unregulated as they were in the early 1800’s.
But the industry people would, of course, be outraged to be reminded of or compared to the origins from which their modern business sprang.