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.

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.

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
True

Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pixabay

As people get older, social isolation and loneliness become serious problems. Many find themselves living alone for the first time after the death of a spouse. It's also difficult for older people to maintain friendships when people they've known for years become ill or pass away.

Census Bureau figures say that almost a quarter of men and nearly 46% of women over the age of 75 live alone.

But loneliness doesn't just affect those who reside by themselves. People can feel lonely when there is a discrepancy between their desired and actual relationships. To put it simply, when it comes to having a healthy social life, quality is just as important as quantity.

Keep Reading Show less