Annotated Bibliography

Burrow, James G. Organized Medicine in the Progressive Era: The Move Toward Monopoly. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

In his book, Burrow examines how the medical community organized itself during the Progressive Era and how it came to be what it is today: a monopolistic, regulated profession. He argues that at the turn of the century, there was no sense of community amongst physicians. They competed against one another, had no professional standards to work with, and were forced to deal with the lack of adequate drugs and effective medical treatments. However, the American Medical Association began a campaign to reorganize the medical profession by increasing its membership within medical societies and associating itself with the national campaign to reform society, like condemning the use of nostrums. In doing so, the medical community actually became a community by using the Progressive movement and its crusade to improve the medical practice.  

Duffy, John. The Healers: A History of American Medicine. Chicago: The University of Illinois Press, 1979. 

Chapter 19, titled “Medical Licensure, Fees, and Societies,” gives a concise, brief overview of the medical community in the early twentieth century and how it organized with the muckraking media to improve its own standards and reputation. It argues that the American Medical Association joined forces with the Progressives and mainly fought the battle against quacks and abuses in the drug field. This fight ultimately led to the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which was a “relatively weak measure but one which initiated some federal action” (296).

Duvall, J. Michael. “Processes of Elimination: Progressive-Era Hygienic Ideology, Waste, and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.” Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Ed. Bloom, Harold. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010.

Sinclair aimed at the public’s heart, but instead accidentally “hit it in the stomach.” Duvall argues that by doing so, Sinclair also touched upon the generalized idea of the nation as a body that needed to be “clean and proper” in order for every individual American to be healthy. Because personal hygiene was the foundation for human progress, the well-being and safety of all persons were essential to the running of the “American machine.” Since Sinclair was a socialist, he also believed that the efficiency of the American body could not be achieved unless everyone had the opportunity to contribute to society, which would require health and equal rights. Duvall’s essay provides a backdrop to the Progressive Era and its push for public health reform.


Goodwin, Lorine Swainston. The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1999.

Goodwin examines the social and political factors that contributed to the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. She argues that one of the main players in the Progressive Era were women, particularly white, middle-class mothers who felt the need to ensure the purity and cleanliness of consumer products. They believed that tainted food and drug products meant tainted morality and public health, and in a way, their convictions were not completely incorrect, for big business's blatant disregard for the worker's welfare led to rapid industrialization and its detrimental consequences, such as urban "decay" and the declining condition of public health. The book provides a very relevant and insightful account of the Progressive Era and why so many Americans caught the "reform spirit." 

Holbrook, Stewart H. The Golden Age of Quackery. New York: The MacMillian Company, 1959. 

Holbrook describes how the patent medicines became a multi-million-dollar industry and what allowed the “patent medicine barons” to stay in business for so long. He discusses the actual chemical composition of these drugs, which contained at least 47% alcohol and usually doses of morphine or opium, and its ability to temporarily relieve pain. The major reason why patent medicines and quackery were so successful was the fact that those promoting these products played on the fears and ignorance of ordinary people. Holbrook also discusses Samuel Hopkins Adams’s exposé on quack medicine and how both Progressives and the AMA demanded health reform and government regulation of consumer products. 

Hursh, David and Chris Goertzen. Good Medicine and Good Music. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009. 

This book details the life of Mrs. Joe Person, a patent remedy entrepreneur, professional musician, and women’s rights supporter. After her daughter was cured from tuberculosis with a home remedy, Person spent her life marketing the remedy in the city of Raleigh and its true efficacy. Although the book clearly advocates the life of Alice Person and her home remedies, it does discuss her competition as well as the “chilling effect” of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. It delves into the history of patent medicines and how traditional drugs that actually had curing powers ultimately became victim to the Progressive muckrakers and their push for reform.

Kantor, Arlene Finger. “Upton Sinclair and the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.” American Journal of Public Health 66.12 (1976).

Kantor’s article provides a detailed examination of Upton Sinclair and his fellow muckrakers, all of whom had a great impact on the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act. It discusses how the “Progressive fervor” and certain interest groups, like the AMA, had to battle against a powerful opposition in order to gain public and federal support. The necessity of national mobilization was realized by Wiley and Sinclair, and through print media, they ultimately “appealed to man’s better nature” and allied themselves with organized women’s groups and the medical community.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer and Ronald L. Numbers, ed. Sickness and Health in America: Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. 

I decided to read James Harvey Young’s “Device Quackery in America” within this collection of essays and examine his take on quack medicines. He details the history of quackery and how it continued to remain relatively pertinent in the early 1900s thanks to advertising and the rise of impressive-looking “gadgets” and devices. He condemns the business of quackery for promoting their machines and drugs “at the expense of reputable medicine” (99) and taking advantage of people’s ignorance. 

Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987.  

Painter provides a detailed account of America’s shift from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, industrial powerhouse after the Reconstruction Era until the modern age. However, the economic change wasn’t without problems, for millions of Americans that belonged to the working class believed that the “aristocracy,” composed by big monopolies and trusts, was infringing upon their inalienable rights. Organized labor wasn’t the only one protesting the huge income and power discrepancy between the masses of “ordinary” Americans and the rich minority, as individuals who believed that the U.S. needed to be more democratized joined the Populist and Progressive movement. Her account on American politics and society at the turn of the century relates to why many people felt the need for a Pure and Food Drug Act. Their desire for equal recognition and treatment from the government also pushed their wish for consumer policies that would protect them from harm and being manipulated. As Painter states, they felt that they were “standing at Armageddon,” and that unless they fixed the world around them, it would collapse completely. 

Rosenberg, Charles E. No Other Gods: On Science and American Social Thought. Revised & enlarged. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.  

Rosenberg describes the ways in which late nineteenth century and early twentieth century American science, social thought, and scientific institutions were related to one another. He argues that science was more than just a system based on abstract concepts, but rather a larger metaphor and tool in which social categories and values were defined. In regards to the Pure Food and Drug Act, Rosenberg asserts that the public health movement was related to pietistic and evangelical sentiments that spurred this kind of social activism in order to help the disadvantaged. Individuals that pushed for reform in urban cities refused to tolerate these “wrongs” and worked to ensure government assistance and protection of those living in the “demoralization of poverty.” 

Young, James Harvey. The Toadstool Millionaires: The History of Patent Medicines in American Before Federal Regulation. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961.

The book’s title derives its name from a statement of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Somebody buys all the quack medicines that build palaces for the mushroom, say rather, the toadstool millionaires.” The author describes how the manufacturers of these patent drugs heavily advertised the “effectiveness” of nostrums, even though many were just homemade remedies and comprised of dangerous chemicals like cocaine and heroin. Although these drugs were not that much better than their orthodox counterparts in the early 1900s, with the advancement of science and medicine, the public audience and the state began to realize how much of a “social evil” patent medicines were.