The 100% Real, No BS, Absolutely Honest and True Story Behind Snake Oil


Created by Great Big Story


Producer + Graphic Design: Philip Robibero
Senior Producer: Connor Boals
Sound Design: Justin Beach
Voice Narration: Chris Tracy

From the creator:

Ah, the snake oil salesman. We've all heard, used, or maybe even been called this most nefarious nomenclature for no-good swindlers and charlatans before. But what the hell is snake oil anyway that its peddlers are such quacks? Well back in the 1800s, Stanley "Rattlesnake King" Clark, a self-proclaimed "expert" in traditional Native American medicine, noticed Chinese railroad laborers rubbing snake oil on their skin to treat joint pain. A Boston druggist business partner and a sales-pitch stage show later, Clark had a product he was hawking to the public and banking a quick buck on. Some folks were mesmerized; others were skeptical. Then, THE FEDS came in...


This story is a part of our Frontiers series, where we bring you front and center to the dreamers, pioneers, and innovators leading society at the cutting edge. Let us take you along for a trip to the oft-imagined but rarely accomplished.

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