So much of the 18th and 19th centuries was spent in both the scientific progress of the medical sciences and, simultaneously, the promotion of superstitions and often dangerous quackeries and snake-oil scams by charlatans! The Age of Enlightenment had not completely dispelled mankind's lingering and sometimes willful ignorance, and so county fairs and carnivals became the havens of these practitioners, often with exotic names, fascinating "backgrounds", intricate machinery and devices, and peculiar concoctions...
An example in point? "MESMERINE".... at small exhibitions in a crowded tent, a woman claiming to be an "energistress" would apply her hands in a variety of odd positions and configurations to the face, head, and body of volunteers from the audience, searching out "maladies, misalignments, and miasmas". She would then, with an assortment of twitches, squeezes, pinches, rubbings, and mumbled words or perhaps barnyard sounds, dispel the problems from the subject. As she "succeeded" she would increase her vehemence by shaking, striking, or even kicking the patient while shrieking loudly and scolding the illnesses "to leave our beloved brother"...or sister, as the case might be. The patients, now rolling on the floor and perhaps shrieking themselves, would be filled with a combination of both gratitude and possibly terror, and would gladly pay the $3.00 that Mesmerine's "manager" would charge for the "healing".
Mesmerine's popularity and reputation increased over a span of ten years or so, until it was discovered that she had originally been a lady-wrestler from MacNamee's Milwaukee-Minneapolis circuit, and that her specialty was combat with animals, usually bears and the occasional bison. Animal cruelty societies run by high-born ladies of the community had eventually closed her shows and would have run her out of towns had it not been revealed that all of the animals in her act were not only tame, but in fact much-beloved and well-cared for pets on her own rescue-farm. Indeed, Mesmerine (formerly Gladys-Jo Hanneker of Farrell Falls, Wisconsin) had actually given her pets "animal acting classes" teaching them convincing-ferocity, stage-biting, evincing-sympathy, playing-dead, and harmonically pleasing yowling!
Turning away from wrestling, she made her way into the up and coming medicine shows, then produced by the famous Ratzwielder-Rozensweigg Entertainment Consortium that serviced circuses, ecdysiast exhibitions, and 4H fairs throughout the midwest... (The name "Mesmerine" came to Gladys in a dream she said, where a sheep with a French accent and a severe head-cold told her fortune in a tent furnished with throw pillows and a hookah.) Mesmerine flourished from about 1888 to 1899, until the quack-medicine craze faded, and, as it was finally being exposed and mocked in the public mind, Mesmerine decided to retire to her farm anyway, and to her cherished pets whom she missed terribly while on tour... She returned to being kindly, loving, (though slightly mannish) Gladys-Jo Hanneker of Farrell Falls, Wisconsin. Interestingly, while playing with the local jug-band, she composed the great American classic, "The Farmer In The Dell".... She made a fortune in royalties....claiming the song was based on her own experiences as a child in her father's barn.
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