Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment

Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment

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The inscription on three sides of this glass jar, in embossed letters, reads “CLARK STANLEY / SNAKE OIL LINIMENT.”
According to his own account, Clark Stanley was born in Texas, ca. 1854, and worked as a cowboy for several years. Then, while studying with a Hopi medicine man in Arizona, he learned the "secrets of snake oil." In 1893, after marketing his liniment at several Western medicine shows, Stanley and his rattlesnakes gained attention at the World's Columbian Exposition. He then established production facilities in Beverly, Ma., and Providence, R.I.
In 1916, after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, Stanley's concoction was found to contain mineral oil, a fatty compound thought to be from beef, capsaicin from chili peppers, and turpentine. He was fined $20.00. The term "snake oil" would eventually become a popular euphemism for ineffective or fraudulent products, particularly those marketed as medicines or cures.
Ref: Clark Stanley, The Life and Adventures of the American Cow-Boy ([Providence, 1897]).
Currently not on view
Object Name
otc preparation
Other Terms
Date made
ca 1890
Clark Stanley
Place Made
United States: Rhode Island, Providence
overall: 11 cm x 3 cm x 3 cm; 4 5/16 in x 1 3/16 in x 1 3/16 in
overall: 4 3/8 in x 1 1/4 in x 1 1/4 in; 11.1125 cm x 3.175 cm x 3.175 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Rubs, Liniments & Ointments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Health & Medicine
Balm of America
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment (from the original label) "Relieves the pain of muscular rheumatism, lame back, contracted muscles, sprains, bruises, corns, chilblains, frostbites, and bites of most insects."

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