We derive the annexed communication from a correspondent:--“There are probably many people now living, who remember the celebrated Jew quack-doctor, Reuben Nathans, who some forty years since, and whose medicines, the ‘Chinese Balsam of Life,’ and the ‘Celebrated Hair-Invigorating Lotion,’ made so much noise at that time. But few, I presume, have heard of the anecdote I am about to relate concerning him. When the ‘Doctor’s’ medicines were first announced to the world, a simple-minded labouring man purchased one bottle of the Lotion and another of the Balsam, for his wife, who had a consumptive cough of many years’ standing, and was beside threatened with the total loss of her hair. The woman used both remedies according to directions, and as is usual with ignorant people, in such cases, thought they were really doing her a vast deal of good. The cough seemed to her to be going away rapidly ; she ‘breathed freer,’ while her hair appeared to be coming back again thicker than ever. As a natural consequence, she felt very great confidence in the medicines ; and when the first lot of Balsam was all used, she sent her husband to get the bottle [1] filled again. The doctor asked the man how the medicine operated?

“‘Oh, grandly!’ replied the husband ; ‘my wife’s cough’s e’en a’most gone, and her hair’s all coming back again as fiery as ever.’

“‘Ah,’ said the doctor, ‘that’s the way my medicines always work. There’s no mistake about them. They’re just what I call them, the ‘greatest wonders of the age.’ I ‘spose you’ve no objection to give me your affidavit?’

“ ‘Oh, no,’ replied the man ; ‘that’s just what my wife wants me to do.’

“The couple then repaired to the mayor’s office, where an affidavit was drawn up, sworn to, and witnessed. On returning to the doctor’s shop, the quack took up the empty bottle for the purpose of refilling it. Uncorking it, he put it to his nose and smelt of it.

“ ‘Why, what can this mean?’ he exclaimed, in some astonishment ; and then, after looking at the label, he smelt of it again. ‘Why, Sir, this isn’t [2] balsam, though the label says so, but the ‘hair lotion!’

“ ‘Hair lotion or not,’ replied the man, pointing to the bottle, ‘that’s what cured my wife’s dreadful cough, and the stuff in the other bottle at home is what made her hair grow again!’

“ ‘Strange! strange!’ repeated the doctor, with a puzzled countenance ; ‘I don’t know what to make of it. Will you be kind enough, Sir, just to step back and get me the other bottle—the hair lotion, I mean?’

“The man did so, and soon returned with the lotion bottle. The doctor took it, and applied his nose to the mouth.

“ ‘And this,’ said he, ‘is just as surely the balsam as the other is the lotion. Don’t you think there was some mistake on your part, Sir? Are you sure that what was in this bottle made your wife’s hair grow again?’

“ ‘Just as sartain as I’m alive,’ replied the man ; ‘for I always turned [unclear] myself, while Betsey held the spoon.’

“The doctor sat down in a chair, and, laying a finger on his nose, seemed buried in profound thought.

“ ‘Ah! I see!’ he at length exclaimed, and jumping up, he filled the empty bottle again. ‘There, Sir,’ said he, giving it to the man, and hurrying him to the door ; ‘all’s right, Sir ; I was a little bothered, that’s all. Call again when that’s gone, and you shall have another for nothing.’

“As soon as he had shut the door on his customer, the doctor called in his ‘confidential’ man from the ‘laboratory.’

“ ‘Moshes,’ said he, ‘we’ve made a great mistake in our guess work, after all. I’ve been studying ver’ hard, lately, and have just discovered that our lotion is the stuff to cure the coughs and the consumptions, and the balsam is the besht to make the hair grow! We must change the labels.’

“ ‘That’s unlucky,’ replied the man, ‘for we’ve got four thousand bottles, two thousand of each kind, all ready to send away to-morrow.’

“ ‘Vel, vel,’ said the Doctor, ‘you can change the labels if you have time ; if not, send them off as they are. ‘Tis n’t mosh matter!’”------Knickerbocker Gossip.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 15.20 (20 September 1845): 354. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “bottled.”

[2] Original text reads “is n’t.”

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