Tag Archives: John Austen Hamlin

We’re Off to See the Wizard — The Poisoner’s Handbook?



The Almonte Gazette 1902

Mrs. Adam Clark, of Port Elmsley,who sought the aid of the Wizard in Carleton Place as related last week, came back on Sunday after also visiting friends. Though having positively guaranteed a cure, when confronted she quailed. She would not now guarantee, the product. 

To be so thrown down after making that long journey was a species of cruelty and callousness of the fibre of a car wheel. She came straight back, deceived up to the hilt, but not in despair, having formed the resolution to nourish her own vital essences and see if perchance the antidote may not lay at hand within her own system.


Who or what was ‘the Wizard’?

Hamlin’s Wizard Oil was an American patent medicine sold as a cure-all under the slogan “There is no Sore it will Not Heal, No Pain it will not Subdue.”

First produced in 1861 in Chicago by former magician John Austen Hamlin and his brother Lysander Butler Hamlin, it was primarily sold and used as a liniment for rheumatic pain and sore muscles, but was advertised as a treatment for pneumonia, cancer, diphtheria, earache, toothache, headache and hydrophobia. It was made of 50%-70% alcohol containing camphor, ammonia, chloroform, sassafras, cloves, and turpentine, and was said to be usable both internally and topically.

Traveling performance troupes advertised the product in medicine shows across the Midwest, with runs as long as six weeks in a town. They used horse-drawn wagons and dressed in silk top hats, frock coats, pinstriped trousers, and patent leather shoes—with spats. They distributed song books at the shows and in druggists Performers included James Whitcomb Riley, singer and composer Paul Dresser from Indiana, and southern gospel music progenitor Charles Davis Tillman.

At these gatherings John Austen Hamlin delivered lectures replete with humor borrowed from the writings of Robert Jones Burdette.

Grinnell College research points out that the Hamlins claimed efficacy for Wizard Oil on not only human beings but also horses and cattle, one poster displaying an elephant drinking the stuff by lifting the bottle with the trunk. Bottles came in 35¢ and 75¢ sizes.[Carl Sandburg inserted two versions of lyrics titled “Wizard Oil” together with a tune into his American Songbag (1927).

In 1916, Lysander’s son Lawrence B. Hamlin of Elgin, by then manager of the firm, was fined $200 under the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act for advertising that Hamlin’s Wizard Oil could “check the growth and permanently kill cancer”. –Files from Wikipedia

Read the Almonte Gazette here