Ouch. (The American tooth show).

7 Jan

In the city market at Baltimore, one day around the turn of the twentieth century, Madame du Bois and her husband, Dr Andrew Dupré “pulled teeth and sold liniment to the accompaniment of a small brass band. Dupré was an extraordinary character who dressed in the uniform of a French chasseur, complete with doeskin breeches and a tall horsehair helmet. The hilt of his sword contained a forceps which he used to draw teeth as the band played ‘tooth-pulling music’ to drown the screams of his customers”.

A riff on the tooth-show theme was provided by Professor Seguar, an American showman who toured England in the same period. “Dressed in an eccentric Western outfit with a broad-brimmed sombrero, the Professor would pitch his Seguar’s Oil and Prairy Flower Mixture, then proceed to open his ‘dental clinic’ in a tiny cabin built on the back of his carriage. As he moved into the cabin with each victim, Professor Seguar lit a miner’s lamp on his giant headpiece and his band struck up the Negro spiritual ‘Who’s dat callin’s so sweet?'”. And then of course there was the inimitable Dr “Painless” Parker, the only dentist to have extracted 357 teeth from a vaudeville stage, who went about in a top hat and dental adornments. He posted advertisements four storeys high on assorted New York buildings, proclaiming: “Painless Parker – I am positively IT in painless dentistry!”.

(This material comes from Brook McNamara’s Step Right Up (1976), p. 33, a treat of a book on American medicine shows, and from the Pierre Fauchard’s dental academy website. For brief references to Australian tooth-shows on this blog thus far, see here and here).

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