Hello, ladies and gentleman, and welcome to the PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products Podcast where we talk about everything from people to animals to pets and everything in between.
I’m your host, Dr. Marc Smith, 20-year practicing veterinarian, and one of the two creators of PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products.
What I wanted to talk to you about today is the term “snake oil salesman.”
I’ve been reading the paper a lot, and we have all these political opinions and political rants and political ravings, and the term “snake oil salesman” keeps on popping up.
To me, the term snake oil salesman, it conveys a sense of distrust or people that lie to get what they want.
I thought about where did this term really originate and how did the term come to be so negative.
I did a little research and I thought I would discuss it with you because I think it’s pretty cool and I think it’s pretty interesting.
You see, it all goes back to the olden days.
That was a term my father used to use when I was a little kid, and he would say, “Son, back in the olden days, we did things this way.”
When I’m talking about the olden days in reference to this term, it’s the 1800s.
You see, in the 1800s with the construction of the transcontinental railroad, many Chinese workers were brought into this country.
These Chinese workers were underpaid.
They worked hard.
They worked long.
Along with them, they brought many remedies to treat their ailments from the strenuous labor required to actually construct the transcontinental railroad.
One of the remedies they bought was snake oil, and this oil came from the Chinese water snake, and it was rich in omega-3 fatty acids that helped to reduce inflammation.
These Chinese workers, at the end of a long day of hard work, they would vigorously rub this oil into their joints, into their muscles, and all over their body to help their muscles recover to relief the soreness and the pain from hours and hours and hours of hard labor.
These Chinese workers, they let their American counterparts, who were working on the railroad, use the oil as well.
The Americans, wow, they love this oil. They’d rub it all over them. They praised its miraculous effects, praised the way it remedied the soreness, and it helped them feel better after a long hard day at work.
How did a legitimate medicine become such a symbol of fraud and deceit?
You see, as the power of snake oil grew and as many people, American people, decided they wanted snake oil and they wanted to sell snake oil.
The only problem was that there were no Chinese water snakes available, so some of the Americans started to use rattlesnakes in place of the Chinese water snake.
One savvy entrepreneur by the name of Clark Stanley, he began to attend all these county fairs and advertised on the back of newspaper that he had the cure-all, snake oil.
The only problem was this snake oil was made from the rattlesnake.
He never told the people that, “Hey, it’s not the same snake oil that these Chinese immigrants brought into our country.
He went around and sold his snake oil as the same Chinese water snake oil.
Tale has it that Clark Stanley, otherwise known as The Rattlesnake King, would stand up in from of screaming crowds of people, pull a rattlesnake out of the bag, slit the snake open, and throw it into boiling water and skim off the fat that rose to the top, bottle it up and sell it to people suffering from any kind of ailments, such as stomachache, backache, headache, or really any kind of pain.
Mr. Stanley’s success didn’t last long.
In 1906 with the passing of the Food and Drug Act, the Pure Food and Drug Act, legislatures sought to clamp down and stop the fraudulent sales of many home medicines and many patent remedies.
Federal investigators got some of Mr. Stanley’s snake oil and tested it in the lab, and what they found is that the snake oil didn’t truly contain snake oil.
It contained other substances, such as mineral oil, beef fat, red pepper, and turpentine.
You guessed it. Mr. Stanley was not selling real Chinese water snake oil nor was he selling rattlesnake oil, but he was selling something totally fake, and therefore, my friends, that is the history and origination of the term, snake oil salesman.
Ladies and gentleman, thank you for joining me today here on the PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products Podcast.
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