Today we welcome Ray Dean!
A reenactor and educator, Ray Dean has delved into many eras of the past, but Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality(http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that might influence a Steampunk world.
by Ray Dean
“Step right up, yep, step right up! That’s right, folks, don’t be shy. Shy don’t get you good health! Shy don’t get you a cure for your ills.” The man in a sharp suit with a sharper eye steps up to the edge of the stage erected before his wagon and takes the measure of the audience. “A wise man knows that fortune favors the brave, my friends, and I’m calling on you to be one of those brave people that listens to what I have to say… Come closer and I’ll tell you about the miracle of modern medicine that has brought me here today.”
The crowd, most of them drawn in by curiosity or perhaps drawn in by the day to day boredom of a Western Town on the verge of some many disasters, would lean in and listen with rapt attention as the medicine salesman gave his pitch.
“Do you suffer from dyspepsia,” he’d ask, his eyes serious and concerned, “or does the ague keep you awake at night?”
Some in the crowd would murmur and nod.
He’d continue, listing diseases and symptoms that would make a list as long as his arm or even some mens’ beards. Still, he’d promise that he had the ONE medicine to cure all their ills!
A Patent Medicine.
Contrary to the name, the only thing patented about this medicine was the name. Dr. Flint’s Quaker Bitters. Professor Lowe’s Liniment. Dr. Davis’ Painless Catarrh Specific. Such eye-catching names came with fancy labels on pretty bottles. Who knew health could be so attractive?
Behind him an assistant tugs on a rope and a banner unfurls behind the salesman. A wild and brightly colored picture of an Indian is revealed.
“That’s right, folks! Genuine Kickapoo Sagwa! The medicine that up until now has only been known to the medicine men of the Kickapoo tribe! ”
If the terrifying visage of the Indian painted on the sign didn’t cause the women to faint or men to walk away grumbling he launched right into the rest of his pitch. “What price is your health, dear friends? Wouldn’t you rather pay me a single dollar than six to the undertaker?”
For those unconvinced, they had only a moment to wait before a feeble cry would arise from the back of the crowd. “Here, I’ll try one.” A thin, bony hand would rise up above their heads, a shiny coin held aloft. “Here’s my money.”
The crowd would make way for the elderly man, bent nearly in half from pain and old age, as he walked to the stage. In exchange for the coin he was given a bottle of the elixir and the crowd waited while he drank down a few gulps.
No sooner than the liquid had settled in his middle a miraculous change would occur! Straightening his back with artful glee, feet dancing about in the dirt, a chortle of laughter would give way to a shout. “I feel young again!”
The cheers would soon be drowned out by people shouting for their own bottle of whatever elixir that the salesman had to offer.
Medicine and Technology have a push-pull relationship where one influences the other, trading back and forth in the dominant role. Where would Steampunk take the Medicine salesman/chemist? Or, what kinds of Steampunk technology would influence the creation of Medicine?
Dyspepsia – indigestion
Ague – malarial fever or chills
Quinsy – tonsilitis
Images courtesy of Steam Dust Studios