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
Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


Keep Reading Show less

Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less