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The Medicine Show

The traveling salesman is a fixture in our folklore, celebrated in stories, jokes, anecdotes, and cartoons. Within the ranks of the salesmen, a special sense of mystery and glamour surrounds the medicine showman--the itinerant patent medicine seller whose free performances were an important part of small town life still within the memory of many Americans.

The American patent medicine seller derived from mountebanks--wandering herb doctors and medicine vendors who drew crowds with songs or conjuring. They appeared in the New World as early as the 1600s, but it was only about 1850 that the idea of selling medicine between the acts of a free ...

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