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MMD > Archives > December 1998 > 1998.12.11 > 06Prev  Next

Dr. Brinkley: The Goat Gland Doctor
By Joyce Brite

D. L. Bullock wrote:

> Twenty years ago I assisted with restoration of a small Chickering
> Art Case grand Ampico A that was built for a yacht.  It spent its
> service on the boat of the infamous Goat Gland Doctor.
> Dr. Brinkley was famous for his patent medicines and an operation
> in which he implanted goat gonads into elderly gentlemen to improve
> virility.  I don't know how that actually worked with the body's
> rejection mechanism.  He was run out of 7 states before he installed
> a 1,000,000 watt AM radio station on a yacht in the Gulf of Mexico
> where he lived and sold (quack?) medicines on the radio.

I had to chuckle when I read this.  Dr. Brinkley was one of the more
colorful and controversial figures (understatement) in American history.
In addition to his dubious goat gland operations, he ran for governor of
Kansas three times as a third-party candidate during the 1930's, and
fortunately for the state, lost every time.

  "[In 1930]... Dr. John R. Brinkley... ran as an independent write-in
  candidate, and his background was unique.  Brinkley had come to
  Kansas in 1918 and opened a medical practice in Milford where he
  offered to restore male sexual vitality by transplanting goat
  glands.  Supposedly his first operation was successful for his
  patient finally became a father after years of frustration.  Other
  patients, believing in Brinkley's magic, helped spread his fame.
  The Brinkley empire grew.  He built and paid for a hospital and drug
  store in Milford, he opened his own bank, and he traveled by
  Cadillac or in his own airplane.  In 1922 he opened the first radio
  station in Kansas KFKB...and his broadcasts, the "Medical Question
  Box of the Air," were heard in thousands of homes within a few
  years.  He answered letters from listeners on the air, gave lectures
  on all aspects of health, and arranged for his special patent
  medicines to be sold in several Kansas drug stores.

  "But the doctor's success was challenged by the American Medical
  Association, which took a dim view of his practices, particularly
  since he had never completed work for a degree at a recognized
  medical school.  His diplomas were from schools that issued
  impressive looking pieces of paper but offered little in the way of
  regular training.  The Kansas City (Missouri) Star and its radio
  station, WDAF, began a series of investigations into Brinkley's
  background and publicly denounced him.  The Kansas Board of Medical
  Examination and Registration revoked Brinkley's license to practice
  and fearing that his broadcasting rights might also be taken away,
  the "doctor" became a politician."

When Brinkley ran for governor in 1930, he finished third in a very
close, three-way election.  Encouraged by his success in gathering
votes in this close race, Brinkley ran for governor again in 1932:

  "Brinkley's critics pointed out that...much of his support came from
  the 'lunatic fringe' of American voters.  However, Brinkley was only
  one of several politicians in American during the 1930s who
  advocated unrealistic governmental changes and appealed to voters
  struggling to survive the depression.  There are similarities
  between Brinkleyism and Populism, as Francis W. Schruben points out,
  because Populism appealed to the underdog, the victim of social and
  economic injustice, just as Brinkley appealed to him at a later

  "[By 1932] ...Brinkley had sold KFKB...but he was not out of the
  broadcasting business.  Since he was in difficulties with the U.S.
  government he established a new station, XER, in Villa Acuna,
  Mexico, just across the border from Del Rio, Texas.  The station's
  transmitter was so powerful that Brinkley could be heard in Kansas.
  ... In addition to his sixteen-cylinder Cadillac, Brinkley had a
  large truck that he called 'Ammunition Train No. One.'  The truck's
  sides let down to form a speaking platform and he was generally
  preceded by a Milford minister who testified to Brinkley's
  generosity, piety, and honesty.  When Brinkley himself began to
  speak the lights were lowered except for one spotlight that made him
  the central figure."

  A few years later, Brinkley "...was in trouble with the Mexican
  government, which shut down station XER.  Brinkley had made twelve
  million dollars on rejuvenation operations alone but by 1938 his
  financial world collapsed and he took bankruptcy in 1941, just a
  year before his death."

(Source:  Richmond, Robert W.  Kansas: A Land of Contrasts.  3rd ed.
Arlington Heights, IL: Forum Press, Inc., 1989.  pp. 261-264, 267).

Joyce Brite
Player Piano and Mechanical Music Exchange

(Message sent Tue 8 Dec 1998, 16:57:23 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Brinkley, Doctor, Dr, Gland, Goat

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