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GK36-Dunsaney

Merchant selling snake oil

Snake oil was a common term for patent medicines sold in the United States of America in the 19th century.

Background Edit

Though mostly harmless, snake oil often included items such as herbs, soil, or wood shavings wrapped in an alluring package. Snake oil merchants claimed that a variety of ailments could be cured by their medicines, but all were fake. Sometimes a partner would pretend to become cured by the medicine in order to entice sales. When the drugs did work, it was a result of the placebo effect. (ST - The Lost Era novel: Catalyst of Sorrows)

History Edit

Doctor Smith owned a business called Dr. Smith’s Snake Oil in the Old West. He traveled southern California selling bottles of Dr. Dunsaney’s Magic Elixir along with other potions. He said the elixir could “cure lumbago, cataracts, seizures, consumption, backaches and earaches.” In 1855, Smith touted the drug’s benefits to the residents of a small town in southern California. (TOS comic: "A Bomb in Time")

Harry Mudd was caught selling fake love potion crystals to miners on Motherlode. His accomplice appeared to be Lora, but she was actually a Rigelian hypnoid. Unbeknownst to him, the crystals actually did work temporarily on some species. (TAS episode & Log Three novelization: Mudd's Passion)

On Sliwon in 2360, Tuvok and Selar encountered a Rigelian snake-oil salesman who was selling hilopon, a bacteria found on Renaga used as a folk remedy for many ailments. He also offered to sell a love potion. When pressed, he confessed that the hilopon was harmless, but he at least was selling hope. The compound did have medicinal value, however. When exposed to an element in Renaga’s sun, hilopon could cure the Catalyst virus. (ST - The Lost Era novel: Catalyst of Sorrows)

Remarks Edit

On Rigel XII in 2266, after James T. Kirk convinced Ben Childress to provide the USS Enterprise with badly needed dilithium, Leonard McCoy said that Kirk must have given quite a speech and should start selling snake oil. He clarified to Spock that he referred to patent medicine. (TOS novelization: Mudd's Women)

In 2270, McCoy joked that he worked with patent medicines and horse needles to Commissioner Moriah Wayne. (TOS novel: From the Depths)

In 2278, McCoy joked that when they retired Spock could become a circus strongman. Spock responded by saying McCoy could become a snake oil salesman. (TOS novel: Shell Game)

In 2279, the charismatic criminal Billy Maidenshore of Pandora's Box lamented that he was regarded as a snake oil salesman for duping those who followed him. In 2280, Nyota Uhura did in fact regard him as a snake-oil salesman. (TOS - New Earth novels: Wagon Train to the Stars, Challenger)

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