Quackery and Humbugs

Books either propounding or describing quack medicine, dubious scientific theories, and the like.

Exposing Quackery

Humbugs of New-York: being a remonstrance against popular delusion; whether in science, philosophy, or religion. By David Meredith Reese, M.D. New-York: John S. Taylor, 1838. —Includes interesting discussions of “ultra-abolitionism” and “ultra-Protestantism” among the “humbugs.”

Quackery Unmasked: or a consideration of the most prominent empirical schemes of the present time, with an enumeration of some of the causes which contribute to their support. By Dan King, M.D. Boston: David Clapp, 1858.

The Humbugs of the World: An Account of Humbugs, Delusions, Impositions, Quackeries, Deceits and Deceivers Generally, in all ages. By P. T. Barnum. New York: Carleton, 1866. —“There is no one, perhaps, better qualified than Mr. Barnum, the Prince of Humbuggers, to detect and describe humbug in all its ramifications and phases. He has written a very amusing book concerning humbugs of various sorts, among which are medicines and quacks, hoaxes, ghosts and witchcrafts, adventurers, etc.” —Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine.


Promoting Quackery


The Beauties of Occult Science Investigated: or, the Celestial Intelligencer: in Two Parts. Part the First containing a plain, easy, and comprehensive introduction to astrology, with all the requisites for obtaining a familiar and general knowledge of the science...Part the Second containing the method of calculating, directing, and judging nativities, both according to the Argolian System and the doctrine of Ptolemy. By Thomas White. London: Anne Davis and J. S. Dickson, 1810.



The Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology, with one hundred engravings, and a chart of the character as given by O. S. and L. N. Fowler, practical phrenologists. New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1855.


The Study of the Human Face, illustrated by twenty-six full-page steel engravings. By Thomas Woolnoth, Esq., Historical Engraver to the Queen. London: William Tweedie, 1865. —An attempt at a popular introduction to the science of physiognomy, with 26 typical traits, each illustrated by a suitable engraved portrai