Michigan’s Evangelists, Revivalists, Quacks, Cures & Medicine Men
Neil Diamond's 1969 song Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show has the lyric “pack up the babies 'n grab the old ladies and everyone goes”. Well, that's what happened in Michigan – as it did in many other parts of the country, many, many years ago...and it still goes on today.
Traveling evangelists would go from town to town, pitching their massive tents in some farmer's field. After a few well-placed posters announcing his arrival and how he could either save your soul, the people came in droves.
Then there were the wagon pitchmen...the 'healers'...whose special elixir could miraculously cure your ills. This 'medicine' was mostly made of alcohol, with who-knows-what thrown in. Could be bark, root, squished bugs, snake heads...anything and everything could find their way into the traveling barker's healing potion. The alcohol definitely lifted the spirits for a few hours, but afterward another bottle was soon needed.....and the “special” ingredients could make some people sick...or worse.
To be fair, there were some legitimate wagon 'healers' who truly wanted to help and heal...but the ones who were flashy and overdid the theatrics – as well as their quackery – are the most enjoyable. The same goes for the evangelists; some were legitimate, others not.
There have been quack cures since the beginning of medicine, thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, there are still an abundance of them currently out there bilking the public, mostly the elderly. The gallery below shows a few of the vintage quack cures, some quack therapy, and quack do-it-yourself-help.
In my opinion, the most interesting of all are the Native American medicine men. Their methods seemed to cure, and they were proud of their work. Their ancient methods had been passed down through generations for good reason. They did the job.
Below is a photo potpourri of the honorables, dishonorables, quacks, 'cures', tent revivals, traveling evangelists, medicine men, and more.
This ain't no history lesson...and that's all that needs to be said.
MORE VINTAGE MICHIGAN:
Michigan's Smallest Banks, Early 1900s
Michigan's Wagons, Early 1900s
Michigan's Vintage Bowling Alleys: 1908-1962
Goosebumps and other bodily reactions, explained