Dr John Brinkley had a long, complicated, and fascinating life story. It is the tale of a poor mountain boy who became a millionaire with ambition, hard work, and a little help from radio. Called a quack, charlatan, and mega-medical radio star, Dr John Brinkley is a character from the 20th century that could not have existed without the power of radio.
Dr. Brinkley's father, John Richard Brinkley, was a unique character of his own right practiced medicine in the Appalachian Mountains and served as a medic for the confederate army. When the young Dr. Brinkley was only 10, his father died and the family continued to be poor. The young John worked as a telegrapher but deeply wanted to be a doctor.
After the death of "Aunt Sally," John Brinkley he married Sally Wilke as traveled the countries as "Quaker Doctors" giving medical advice without a license to rural communities and hawking tonics, mainly virility tonics which were to become his specialty. The couple settled in Chicago where John attended the unaccredited Bennett Medical College. Unable to finish his studies, John bought his diploma at the Kansas City Eclectic Medical College. Sally eventually left for good with their three daughters.
John Brinkley remarried a physician's daughter and eventually moved to Milford Kansas to serve as the town's doctor. He was revered in Milford for boosting the local economy and successfully helping victims of the 1918 flu pandemic.
Dr. John Brinkley began experimenting with goat glands, surgically implanting them for every ailment from fertility, to dementia, to impotency. The American Medical Association was hot on his trail to shut down his practice. Most notably Morris Fishbein was a constant adversary to Dr. John Brinkley. The procedure was expensive and many of his patients died of infection but his Milford clinic continued to grow earning him about $14,000 a week. He caught the attention of Los Angeles Times newspaper editor, Harry Chandler, who finagled Dr. John Brinkley a short medical license to practice in the state of California. The license was later revoked, but while in Los Angeles Brinkley discovered a new medium – the radio.
He opened the first radio station in the state of Kansas and began marketing his clinic and services over the airwaves in 1923. He added a wide variety of entertainment to his station including music, storytelling, and even educational programs. In 1930, The Kansas City Star (who owned a rival radio station) cajoled the Federal Radio Commission to revoke Brinkley's broadcasting license. Undeterred, Dr. John Brinkley ran for the seat of Governor in Kansas and almost won.
Dr. John Brinkley moved to Del Rio, Texas which is on the border of the United States and Mexico. The Mexican government granted him a license for a 150,000 watt tower (Border Blaster) which had the power to broadcast to Finland! He hawked his goat-gland cure-alls and sold airtime to other advertisers at the whopping price of $1,700 per hour. His station also featured Americana music with both Red Foley and Gene Autry launching their careers on his station.
Eventually rival doctors began offering the same procedures that Brinkley offered (namely prostate surgeries) at a fraction of the cost. Morris Fishbein returned at the same time called Dr. John Brinkley a medical charlatan. Brinkley also began sympathizing Nazi Germany (before America entered the war). He even tiled a swastika at the bottom of his pool. Because of this and multiple other reasons including the influence of Morris Fishbein, the United States convinced Mexico to close Dr. Brinkley's radio station.
Dr. Brinkley then moved again this time to Little Rock, Arkansas. The recordings in this collection come from this era in Dr. Brinkley's life. In the radio shows he asked listeners to send in the names and addresses of sick friends and family who are "physically able and financially able" to come see him for treatment. He claims that the examination that you will receive at Brinkley Hospital in Little Rock Arkansas is the most complete that you will ever have.
This collection of very rare Dr. John Brinkley radio broadcasts gives a glimpse at his exciting and somewhat sordid relationship with radio. Dr. John Brinkley is a fascinating character in America history and there are a number of books written about the man and his popularity.
See also: Aimee Semple McPherson Collection and Anthony Rudel's article, "John Romulus Brinkley: Broadcaster, Medical Man, Politician, Marketing Genius." For more "Boarder Blasters" see also: Cowboy Slim Rinehart. For dramatizations, see also: Quack Doctors Collection.