The Toadstool Millionaires:
A Social History of Patent Medicines
in America before Federal Regulation

James Harvey Young PhD

This book, originally published in 1961, chronicles the rise of the patent medicine trade from its beginnings in colonial America until passage of the first federal food and drug law. Dr. Young (1915-2006) was a social historian whose special interest was the development of food and drug regulation in America. He served for many years as a professor of history at Emory University and also wasas a member of the FDA National Advisory Food and Drug Council. The book is reproduced with the kind permission from him and the publisher, Princeton University Press.




"At the Sign of Galen's Head": English patent medicines in colonial America


Galvanising Trumpetry: American independence in the realm of pseudo-medicine


Vials and Vermifuges: The expansion of American nostrums during the early 19th century


"The Old Wizzard." Thomsonianism, a democratic system of patented medication


Hercules and Hydra: The first significant critique of patent medicines


Purgation Unlimited: Patent medicines and the press


"To Arms! To Arms!!" and After: The Civil War, its aftermath, and the great boom


The Great Outdoors: Patent medicine advertising by paint and poster


St. George and the Dragon: The patent medicine almanac


"A Microbe Is a Microbe": Quackery and the germ theory


The Pattern of Patent Medicine Appeals: An analysis of the psychology of patent medicine advertising


Medicine Show: The linking of entertainment to nostrum promotion


"The Great American Fraud": Acceleration of the patent medicine critique


Dr. Wiley's Law: The passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906


Half a Century Later: Sobering continuities in the realm of patent medicines.
A Note on the Sources 

This page was revised on November 15, 2006.

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