+
upworthy
Most Shared

A salesman tried to dupe Twain. His response? A turn-of-the-century burn of the century.

A salesman tried to dupe Twain. His response? A turn-of-the-century burn of the century.

Prostitution may be the “world’s oldest profession,” but quackery can’t be too far behind.

In the 19th century, American medical doctors began to take a scientific approach to practicing medicine, but it didn’t stop the growing number of con artists pushing fake medical cures, elixirs, tonics, and serums across the countryside.

These traveling sales people would set up tents and make fire-and-brimstone speeches touting the unbelievable benefits of their products that were said to cure everything from tuberculosis to baldness.


These displays were often accompanied by confidence tricks and fake testimonials.

[rebelmouse-image 19398162 dam="1" original_size="464x291" caption="via Carol M. Highsmith/Wikimedia commons" expand=1]via Carol M. Highsmith/Wikimedia commons

By the time the people who bought the medicine realized it was fake, the con artists were off to the next town with pockets full of their money.

Two hundred years later, people are still duped by quacks who practice unscientific medicine such as homeopathy, reflexology, and aromatherapy.

While the Internet age has given people greater access to information, it has also advanced unscientific heath scares such as the anti-vaxxer movement and big pharma conspiracies.  

People who peddle fake medical cures are especially insidious because they convince people to take ineffective courses of treatment that can lead their problems to worsen.

Countless people have died by using alternative medicine to treat terminal illnesses instead of scientifically-proven courses of treatment.

[rebelmouse-image 19398163 dam="1" original_size="800x857" caption="via Wikimedia Commons" expand=1]via Wikimedia Commons

In 1905, five years before his death, author Mark Twain ("The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Tom Sawyer") eloquently railed against practitioners of quackery with a brilliant letter he wrote to a detestable charlatan.

J.H. Todd sent a letter to Twain pitching him on a bogus medicine called “The Elixir of Life” that he claimed could cure meningitis and diphtheria. Meningitis had killed Twain’s daughter in 1896 and diphtheria claimed his 19-month-old son in 1872.

A furious Twain dictated a letter to his secretary that eviscerated Todd with his trademark folksy wit.

Nov. 20. 1905

J. H. Todd  

1212 Webster St.

San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.

It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me.

A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain
Family

Dad takes 7-week paternity leave after his second child is born and is stunned by the results

"These past seven weeks really opened up my eyes on how the household has actually ran, and 110% of that is because of my wife."

@ustheremingtons/TikTok

There's a lot to be gleaned from this.

Participating in paternity leave offers fathers so much more than an opportunity to bond with their new kids. It also allows them to help around the house and take on domestic responsibilities that many new mothers have to face alone…while also tending to a newborn.

All in all, it enables couples to handle the daunting new chapter as a team, making it less stressful on both parties. Or at least equally stressful on both parties. Democracy!

TikTok creator and dad Caleb Remington, from the popular account @ustheremingtons, confesses that for baby number one, he wasn’t able to take a “single day of paternity leave.”

This time around, for baby number two, Remington had the privilege of taking seven weeks off (to be clear—his employer offered four weeks, and he used an additional three weeks of PTO).

The time off changed Remington’s entire outlook on parenting, and his insights are something all parents could probably use.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Nazis demanded to know if ‘The Hobbit’ author was Jewish. He responded with a high-class burn.

J.R.R. Tolkien hated Nazi “race doctrine” and no problem telling his German publishing house about it.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler handed the power of Jewish cultural life in Nazi Germany to his chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels established a team of of regulators that would oversee the works of Jewish artists in film, theater, music, fine arts, literature, broadcasting, and the press.

Goebbels' new regulations essentially eliminated Jewish people from participating in mainstream German cultural activities by requiring them to have a license to do so.

This attempt by the Nazis to purge Germany of any culture that wasn't Aryan in origin led to the questioning of artists from outside the country.

Nazi book burning via Wikimedia Commons

In 1938, English author J. R. R. Tolkien and his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, opened talks with Rütten & Loening, a Berlin-based publishing house, about a German translation of his recently-published hit novel, "The Hobbit."

Keep ReadingShow less

Christine Kesteloo has one big problem living on a cruise ship.

A lot of folks would love to trade lives with Christine Kesteloo. Her husband is the Chief Engineer on a cruise ship, so she gets to live on the boat pretty much for free as the “wife on board.” For Christine, life is a lot like living on a permanent vacation.

“I live on a cruise ship for half the year with my husband, and it's often as glamorous as it sounds,” she told Insider. “After all, I don't cook, clean, make my bed, do laundry or pay for food.“

Living an all-inclusive lifestyle seems like paradise, but it has some drawbacks. Having access to all-you-can-eat food all day long can really have an effect on one’s waistline. Kesteloo admits that living on a cruise ship takes a lot of self-discipline because the temptation is always right under her nose.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Artists got fed up with these 'anti-homeless spikes.' So they made them a bit more ... comfy.

"Our moral compass is skewed if we think things like this are acceptable."

Photo courtesy of CC BY-ND, Immo Klink and Marco Godoy

Spikes line the concrete to prevent sleeping.


These are called "anti-homeless spikes." They're about as friendly as they sound.

As you may have guessed, they're intended to deter people who are homeless from sitting or sleeping on that concrete step. And yeah, they're pretty awful.

The spikes are a prime example of how cities design spaces to keep homeless people away.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

13 comics use 'science' to hilariously illustrate the frustrations of parenting.

"Newton's First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest ... until you need your iPad back."

All images by Jessica Ziegler

Kids grab everywhere.


Norine Dworkin-McDaniel's son came home from school one day talking about Newton's first law of motion.

He had just learned it at school, her son explained as they sat around the dinner table one night. It was the idea that "an object at rest will remain at rest until acted on by an external force."

"It struck me that it sounded an awful lot like him and his video games," she joked.

Keep ReadingShow less

When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Doris "Dorie" Miller was working laundry duty on the USS West Virginia.

He'd enlisted in the Navy at age 19 to explore life outside of Waco, Texas, and to make some extra money for his family. But the Navy was segregated at the time, so Miller, an African-American, and other sailors of color like him weren't allowed to serve in combat positions. Instead, they worked as cooks, stewards, cabin boys, and mess attendants. They received no weapons training and were prohibited from firing guns.

Keep ReadingShow less