People really did buy into Opie's "miracle salve" in the Fifties

Classic sitcoms proved the only thing miracle salves were really good for was a solid laugh.

Opie lugs a box around Mayberry with a label on its side proclaiming MIRACLE SALVE in the Andy Griffith Show episode called “A Deal Is a Deal.”

Although many today think of "miracle salve" as snake-oil medicine from frontier times when people didn’t know any better, this episode shines a light on how the Fifties were just as fraught a time for anyone foolish enough to buy into empty promises.

In the Fifties, there was a product called Wunder-Salbe advertised in all the newspapers, promising to be a "miracle salve" you could use to relieve any pain.

That included, apparently, everything from arthritis to paralysis. This miracle salve promised to cure "inflammation, swelling & wounds, exzema, boils, carbuncles, bronchitis, burns, frost bite, old sores, varicose veins, dandruff, pimples, insect bites, athletic feet, bunions, rheumatism, asthma, bed sores, poison ivy, removing corns & warts."

But Wunder-Salbe wasn’t the only miracle salve around. There was even one miracle salve that claimed it could cure cancer.

It seemed so long as there was someone who wanted to believe in these salves, there was money to be made vending them.

By 1959, new miracle salves were still emerging, including a product called Pedolatum. Dubbing itself "something new under the sun!" and "a wonder drug for burns," the product lured buyers by assuring them it was "the foremost medical discovery in years."

You can see how a young, good-natured kid like Opie might want to make sure everybody in Mayberry had this stuff. When he was going door to door in "A Deal Is a Deal," he wasn’t trying to fool anybody. He thought he had the real deal up for sale.

Inflating the healing and medicinal properties of products can cause real harm, though, and the term "miracle salve" today is synonymous with snake oil, an obvious false cure.

Of course, many people in the Fifties knew to doubt these dubious products, and just as sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show had started having fun with miracle salves, average Joes had begun joking about bogus treatments.

In 1952, a Pennsylvania reverend was awarded a "Liars' Trophy" and $50 for his entry in a competition of bold lies passed off as truths. He won with a whopper about a "miracle salve which grew a new dog on the end of a tail after the animal had been killed by an auto."

One type of "miracle salve" that has endured, however, is tied to human hair growth.

In the Fifties, the Vice President of Purdue University pushed atom-bomb scientists to collaborate with agriculturists to develop a hair tonic that sped up the growth of a man’s beard.

He considered this an emergency, directing the scientists to use nuclear fission to borrow from gardening and fertilize the human head.

And he was so certain this miracle salve would work that he told the scientists to make sure they could stop the hair growth once they started it, worried about beards growing for miles like a Shel Silverstein drawing.

Unlike the reputation of most miracle salves, though, which marketed themselves off false promises, the V.P. did expect to slap a warning label ono his hair tonic.

"Perhaps, we had better warn the brothers not to use the miracle salve on their heads," he pondered to The Times in 1951. "The new hair might come out a different color."

That, of course, evokes another classic TV moment: the final episode of The Brady Bunch, which aired in 1974, a decade after Opie learned the truth about his miracle salve.

In "The Hair-Brained Scheme," Bobby, like Opie, hopes to earn money selling miracle salve, a hair tonic that accidentally turns Greg’s hair bright orange the day before his high school graduation.

We think these sitcoms are proof that all miracle salve is really good for is a solid laugh.

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justjeff 9 months ago
One footnote: The article's title is "People really did buy into Opie's "miracle salve" in the Fifties"...

The thing is, TAGS didn't start until 1960... so the correct title should be "People really did buy into "miracle salve" in the Fifties"... leaving Opie out of this...
Michael 9 months ago
Don't forget, this sort of thing was sold on those high power Mexican radio stations in the fifties, and I think into the sixties. The stations were in Mexico, but were intended fir the US audience. Sold all kinds if weird stuff. This is where Wolfman Jack got his fame.
LoveMETV22 Michael 9 months ago
Makes me think of the movie" The Arrival" 1996. Charlie Sheen. Mexican radio station connection in the movie.
Deleted 9 months ago
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justjeff 9 months ago
What was allowed at the turn of the century in drugs, foods, etc. eventually led to the Pure Food and Drug Act.
F5Twitster 10 months ago
The word “miracle” should have been enclosed in quotation marks in all circumstances. To have done otherwise was wholly irresponsible.
jcpiotr 10 months ago
Can you put on more episodes of Batman and or Taxi..? Loved em..!
Steve2021 10 months ago
"There's a sucker born everyday ! " P T Barnum.
And sheep DO do the darnedest things.
Was that one from Linkletter?
Sheila02181 10 months ago
Speaking of Vitameatavegamin, isn't that Little Ricky third from the left?
GoUTVols1961 Sheila02181 10 months ago
Yes it is. He played that part on "I Love Lucy". He is actor Richard Keith. He played Johnny Paul Jason on Andy's show.
Mirramanee Sheila02181 9 months ago
He actually appeared on a couple of the Andy Griffith Show episodes.
justjeff GoUTVols1961 9 months ago
His name is Keith Thibodeaux
Andybandit 10 months ago
I remember the episode when Aunt Bee told the elicser to make her younger and she was drunk instead.
HP11 Andybandit 9 months ago
Elixir......
rickyrose Andybandit 9 months ago
I knew what you meant. You're okay.
ttenchantr 10 months ago
Today he'd be selling horse dewormer! :P
Coldnorth ttenchantr 10 months ago
What a sad truth
ttenchantr 9 months ago
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Coldnorth DanielZabo 9 months ago
Not here to argue. Just having fun
Mirramanee DanielZabo 9 months ago
Yes, it was.
Mirramanee 9 months ago
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rickyrose DanielZabo 9 months ago
Get somewhere Dude, and out of here. Go FB or Twitter, Not here.
rickyrose 9 months ago
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kimmer 10 months ago
All we had growing up was "Bag Balm"....Unguentine...drawing salve....the end...lol
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Michael MichaelRothstein 9 months ago
I get a drug every six months to counter my autoimmune disease. Thst means I have little immunity in general, and vaccinations either don't work or don't do much.I got both doses anyway.

The only way to end this is through vaccination.I

I almost died two years ago. Without Dr. Fauci's work on my disease, the disease is fatal. But dying takes a long time.

People complain about masks, and they complain about lockdowns, and they now complain about vaccinations. But they are the ones holding up a return to normal.

AnnieM justjeff 9 months ago
Maybe you're thinking of Bactine?
justjeff AnnieM 9 months ago
Nope... and it's still sold today.

From Wikipedia: "Unguentine is an over-the-counter topical antiseptic ointment produced by Lee Pharmaceuticals. It was introduced in 1893 as the first antiseptic surgical dressing ointment by Norwich Pharmaceuticals, who later brought Pepto Bismol to market.

It is used for treating the pain of minor burns, poison ivy, poison oak, itching, minor skin wounds and insect bites. Its active ingredients are camphor (3%), phenol (2.5%), tannic acid (2.2%) and zinc oxide (6.6%)."
AnnieM justjeff 9 months ago
I'd never heard of it before, but with camphor as an ingredient, it sounds like it would sting! We used Bactine in our house when I was growing up; my Mom wouldn't use Mercurochrome because it turned everything red and wouldn't wash out!
justjeff 10 months ago
Snake Oil salesmen/women are alive and well. Look at the dozens and dozens of TV commercials for miracle diets, vitamin and herbal supplements, mechanical or electronic apperatus for 'fixing' things, etc.

Even 'big pharma' has had its share of snake oil... look at all of the drug recalls of the past decade. The oldest saying is true: "If it seems too good to be true, it usually is"!

Or... to quote from "I Heard it Through the Grapevine": "Believe half of what you..some or none of what you hear"...
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Cougar LoveMETV22 10 months ago
I would too!!
robert justjeff 9 months ago
Ok, the Andy Griffith Show is a classic and has been fun to watch but who hasn't seen every episode 76 times or more. Give it a 6 year rest.
justjeff robert 9 months ago
I kind of agree. MeTV should try to get "Car 54, Where are You?" back... or perhaps some other comedy series and rotate them... like "I'm DIckens...He's Fenster", "The Joey Bishop Show", "My Little Margie", "Love that Bob"... or bring back Burns and Allen or Jack Benny...
Moverfan justjeff 9 months ago
Antenna TV had The Joey Bishop Show (the sitcom, not the talk show) some five or six years ago. I remember dozing off during Johnny Carson one night and suddenly looking at Joey...spent about ten minutes wondering where he'd come from and what he was doing on my TV.
harlow1313 10 months ago
Today is no different, with the many pills and potions which make unsubstantiated claims, marketed to willing consumers.

We live in superstitious times.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Every so often you see one of those cure all potions on the older programs like
I love Lucy's "Vitameatavegamin. The Three Stooges did a few episodes. I think one of the
Little House on the Prairie episodes had a miracle powder. I know I've seen others but those few come to mind without researching it.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
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LoveMETV22 stephaniestavr5 10 months ago
Yes know that you mention it I do remember it. And the Reverend liked it. Good episode.
LoveMETV22 LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Oops meant now not know Lol.
You actually got it mostly right. I believe that the case for the Bible was actually one of the boxes the miracle salve came in (not totally sure about that). Also, Harriet Oleson (always looking to one up everyone else in town) happened to order the very same Bible the girls were trying to get, so it was actually a good thing Mary and Laura were not able to sell their salve, as the Reverend would have ended up with TWO of the same Bible.
Deleted 10 months ago
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daDoctah 10 months ago
Beard hair is almost never the same color as the hair on the same man's scalp. This was a plot point in an episode of "Dragnet" in which Friday and Gannon are faced with a series of con artists who all have the same general size and build but each carries different distinguish facial features, a wart on one, a scar on another, etc.

The case finally breaks when one potential victim tells the officers that the man had a fake beard. She knows it was fake because it matched exactly the hair on top of his head, which she explains never happens, and she knows this fact because she works in the makeup department at one of the movie studios. The LAPD immediately start looking for someone who owns a theatrical makeup kit.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Maybe it gave way to the "here's for what ails ya" phrase LoL
10 months ago
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justjeff 10 months ago
Hair Club is still around [my landlord uses it], but Sy Sperling has passed on... Can you picture Bugs Bunny shopping for a 'rug' at the "Hare Club for Wabbits"?
10 months ago
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9 months ago
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Runeshaper 10 months ago
I feel like I've seen many salesmen in old westerns (even posing as doctors) selling miracles in a bottle, but miracle salve might be just as good LOL
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