Arthur J. Cramp

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Arthur J. Cramp
Born10 September 1872
Died25 November 1951 (aged 79)
Alma materWisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons
Occupation(s)Medical Researcher and Writer
Known forDirector of the Bureau of Investigation of the American Medical Association
SpouseLillian Torrey

Arthur Joseph Cramp (September 10, 1872 – November 25, 1951) was a medical doctor, researcher, and writer. He served as director of the American Medical Association's (AMA) Propaganda for Reform Department (later, the Bureau of Investigation and, then the Department of Investigation)[1] from 1906 to 1936. He was a regular contributor to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).[2] Cramp was "a bitter opponent of proprietary and medicinal abuses."[3] His three volume series on 'Nostrums and Quackery', along with his public lectures to schools, professional groups, and civic organizations across the country,[1] helped bring awareness to the problem of patent medicines or nostrums, by subjecting the claims (made by predominantly non-medical people) to scientific analysis. He was critical the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, and advocated stronger regulation of product labeling and advertising.[1] In an article announcing his death, the AMA called him "a pioneer in the fight against quackery and fraud in the healing arts."[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Arthur Joseph Cramp was born in London, England.[4] His father was a blacksmith. He received his "preliminary education" in England[4] before moving to the United States in his late teens,[5] around 1891.[2]

Cramp, purportedly, decided to enter medical school after his infant daughter became ill and was treated by a quack. She subsequently died.[5][1] Cramp received his training as a medical doctor from the Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons at Milwaukee, where he graduated in 1906.[6][5][4]


Cramp taught science at the high school level in Milwaukee, Wisconsin[5][2] and at the Seminary and the Maryville, Missouri high school.[7] He also worked at the Wisconsin Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory high school in Waukesha, Wisconsin before entering medical school.[1] While at the Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons, Cramp worked as an assistant in chemistry.[2]

Cramp joined the American Medical Association staff in 1906 as an editorial assistant.[5] He then became the Director for the newly-formed Propaganda for Reform Department.[8] Cramp made it his mission to correspond with professionals and members of the public regarding medical treatments, products, and the business practices of individuals and companies involved in marketing them.[1] His office also maintained a laboratory for testing various products.[4] He wrote about many of these interactions and investigations in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Hygeia, a health magazine.[2][9]

By 1910, Cramp's "Fake File," listing "products, firms, and names of promoters", contained over 12,000 entries. He kept a "Testimonial File" for doctors who endorsed proprietary drugs through testimonials; over 13,000 American doctors and 3,000 foreign doctors.[5] His office became a clearing house for information regarding untested and, sometimes, dangerous practices. His department was aware of the health risks, as well as the financial losses to consumers who were duped by fake medicine vendors.[10]

Cramp advocated truth in advertising, particularly for general consumption (patent) medicines containing "secret formulas,"[5][11] including alcohol.[12] He and his office called for the standardization of medicines (ingredients and dosages) and educating the public on appropriate use. He wrote, "When the public is properly informed, so that it knows what preparations to call for in order to treat its simpler ailments, advertising of secret remedies will be entirely unnecessary."[5] He considered the emotive nature of radio advertisements of quack medicine more harmful than newspaper advertisements. According to Cramp, unlike radio, newspapers had "developed standards of decency and censorship" when determining whether or not to run the advertisements.[13] The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, followed by the 1912 Sherley Amendment, was an attempt to address these issues.[1] However, Cramp warned that federal legislation attempting to address false advertising and interstate trafficking of products did not fully protect the public.[14]

"No man has any moral right to so advertise as to make well persons think they are sick and sick persons thing they are very sick. Such advertising is an offense against the public health."

— Arthur J. Cramp[15][1]

In 1936, Cramp retired from the Bureau due to ill health, after suffering from a heart attack in 1934.[1] Upon hearing of his retirement, the British Medical Journal published this statement: "The quack nostrum trade is international in its activities, and the British medical profession owes a great debt to Dr. Cramp for providing it with the information necessary for combating both home-produced and imported frauds. We can only state our thanks and express the hope that he will enjoy the leisure he has earned by his many years of strenuous combat."[8]

Nostrums and quackery[edit]

In 1911, Cramp published the first of three volumes called Nostrums and Quackery,[3] which would become "a veritable encyclopedia on the nostrum evil and quackery."[1] The first volume contained the educational materials, case histories, and testimonials his department had been collecting.[5]

Nostrums and Quackery, Volume II, published in 1921, was a collection of legal reports of case law involving nostrums and patent medicine reprinted from the Journal of the American Medical Association meant to educate the general public. As reviewer Joseph MacQueen stated, "The matter that appears has been prepared and written in no spirit of malice, and with no object except that of laying before the public certain facts, the knowledge of which is essential to a proper concept of community health."[16]

Cramp's Nostrums and Quackery and Pseudo-Medicine, Volume III, foreword by George H. Simmons, Editor Emeritus of the Journal of the American Medical Association,[8] was published in 1936. As described in The Science News-Letter, the book contained "terse, simple and factual accounts of hundreds of nostrums and the ways of pseudo-medical practitioners."[17] This volume, more condensed than the first two volumes, indexed 1,500 "remedies."[8] W.A. Evans, in his review, wrote "When you have read this book you will consider credulity based on fiction rather drab."[18]

A sampling of "quack cures" which Cramp included in his books and lectures: deafness "cures" (subjecting individuals with hearing loss to airplane nose-dives),[19] beauty "cures" (hair dyes, freckle removers, and reducing lotions containing harmful ingredients or promoted with false claims about their efficacy),[19]{ obesity "cures" (including tapeworms, products containing dinitrophenol, arsenic, and other dangerous substances),[20] cancer "quackery" (alternate cancer therapies),[21] "consumption cure quackery" (elixirs from a bottle whose "alleged cures for consumption are born weekly"),[22] and the Wilshire I-ON-A-CO (a magnetic belt purported to cure cancer, Bright's disease and paralysis, pernicious anemia to health, deafness, muteness, and St. Vitus' dance).[23][24]

"The remedy for the menace of the fake consumption cure is education – and more education. People are gullible not because they lack brains, but because they lack knowledge. Iteration and reiteration of the fundamental facts regarding the prevention and cure of tuberculosis is the only way of overcoming the present toll of human life taken by the consumption quack cure."

— Arthur J. Cramp[22]


As reported in JAMA,[2] Cramp was a member of the following:

  • Associate Fellow of the American Medical Association
  • Indiana State Medical Association
  • Society of Medical History of Chicago
  • Institute of Medicine of Chicago
  • Royal Institute of Public Health
  • Chicago Ornithology Society
  • Phi Rho Sigma
  • Chicago Library Club

Personal life[edit]

Cramp was married to Lilly Torrey of Skidmore, Missouri,[7] daughter of L.N. Torrey.[25] They had a daughter, Torrey, who died on January 2, 1900. The infant's death was caused by seizures related to meningitis.[1]


Cramp died on November 25, 1951, in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He was 79. The cause of death was, reportedly, arteriosclerosis and urema.[2]

Selected articles[edit]

  • Modern Advertising and the Nostrum (1918)[26]
  • The Nostrum and the Public Health (1919)[27]
  • Self-Doctoring (1920)[28]
  • Patent Medicines: What is a 'Patent Medicine' and Why? (1923) [29]
  • Patent Medicines: What Protection Does the National Food and Drugs Act Give? (1923)[30]
  • Therapeutic Thaumaturgy (1924)[31]
  • I-ON-A-CO – The Magic Horse Collar? (1927)[32]
  • The Nostrum and the Public Health (1929)[33]
  • The Bureau of Investigation of the American Medical Association (1931)[34]
  • The Work of the Bureau of Investigation (1933)[11]
  • Salts and Crystals Quackery (1935)[35]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Blaskiewicz, Robert; Jarsulic, Mike (November 2018). "Arthur J. Cramp: The Quackbuster Who Professionalized American Medicine". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (6): 45–50. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Deaths. Cramp, Arthur Joseph". JAMA. 147 (17): 1773. December 29, 1951. doi:10.1001/jama.1951.03670350053022.
  3. ^ a b Jackson, Charles O. (1970). "Through the Looking Glass". Food and Drug Legislation in the New Deal. Princeton University Press. pp. 19–20. JSTOR j.ctt13x1b4x.4.
  4. ^ a b c d "Dr. Cramp to Speak Here". Dubuque Telegraph Herald and Times Journal. Dubuque, Iowa. November 12, 1933. p. 12.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Young, James Harvey (1967). "The New Muckrackers". The Medical Messiahs: A Social History of Medical Quackery in 20th Century America. Princeton University Press. pp. 66–87. JSTOR j.ctt13x1dp5.11.
  6. ^ Fishbein, Morris (December 1933). "The Protection of the Consumer of Food and Drugs: A Symposium". Law and Contemporary Problems. Duke University School of Law. 1 (1): 50–51. JSTOR 1189451.
  7. ^ a b "Dr. Arthur J. Cramp". The Maryville Daily Forum. No. 42 (140). November 28, 1951. p. 1.
  8. ^ a b c d "The Work of Dr. Cramp". The British Medical Journal. BMJ. 1 (3975): 565. March 13, 1937. JSTOR 25356046.
  9. ^ "Medical News". The British Journal. BMJ. 1 (3250): 665. April 14, 1923. JSTOR 20423157.
  10. ^ Gibbons, Roy J. (March 6, 1926). "Pink Pills and Quacks cost Americans millions". Iowa City Press Citizen. Iowa City, Iowa. p. 3.
  11. ^ a b Cramp, Arthur J. (December 1933). "The Work of the Bureau of Investigation". Law and Contemporary Problems. 1 (1): 51–54. doi:10.2307/1189452. JSTOR 1189452.
  12. ^ "Alky in Medicine Defeats Dry Law: Chicago doctors say prohibition won't be success until it's removed". Mitchell Evening Republic. South Dakota. May 9, 1929. p. 6.
  13. ^ "Would bar 'Quacks' from radio talks: Doctors urge federal commission and broadcasters to revise programs". New York Times. May 16, 1935. p. 32.
  14. ^ "Health Notes". Santa Ana Register. Santa Ana, California. April 27, 1923. p. 22.
  15. ^ "Dr. Cramp Declares Promoting Sale of "Patent Medicines" Denounces Advertising of So-Called Cures". The Ogden Standard. Ogden, Utah. October 18, 1918. p. 8.
  16. ^ MacQueen, Joseph (January 22, 1922). "Books". Oregonian. Portland, Oregon: Morning Oregonian. p. 3.
  17. ^ "First Glances at New Books". The Science News-Letter. 31 (837): 271–272. April 24, 1937. JSTOR 3913679.
  18. ^ Evans, Dr. W.A. (March 14, 1922). "How to Keep Well". Times-Picayune. New Orleans, Louisiana. p. 8.
  19. ^ a b "Ridicules flying as deafness cure: Dr. Cramp tells association for hard of hearing air stunts may be harmful". New York Times. June 18, 1930. p. 34. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  20. ^ Farrell, Amy Edman (2011). "Fat, Modernity, and the Problem of Excess". Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. NYU Press. pp. 24–58. JSTOR j.ctt9qg7v0.5.
  21. ^ Clow, Barbara (2001). "The Contours of Legitimate Medicine: Doctors, Alternative Practitioners, and Cancer". Negotiating Disease: Power and Cancer Care, 1900–1950. McGill-Queen's University Press. JSTOR j.ctt80vkn.7.
  22. ^ a b "Quackery Cure for TB Scored". The Daily Herald. Biloxi, Mississippi. September 14, 1928. p. 14.
  23. ^ Fishbein, Morris (October 1927). "The Month in Midical Science". Scientific American. 137 (4): 314–315. Bibcode:1927SciAm.137..314F. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1027-314. JSTOR 26121489.
  24. ^ Davis, Jr., Donald G. (December 1967). "The Ionaco of Gaylord Wilshire". Southern California Quarterly. 49 (4): 425–453. doi:10.2307/41170129. JSTOR 41170129.
  25. ^ "Mrs. Cramp Visits Here". Maryville Daily Democrat Forum. Maryville, Missouri. August 16, 1924.
  26. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (October 1, 1918). "Modern Advertising and the Nostrum". American Journal of Public Health. 8 (10): 756–58. doi:10.2105/AJPH.8.10.756. PMC 1362341. PMID 18009965.
  27. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (May 24, 1919). "The Nostrum and the Public Health". JAMA. 72 (21): 1531. doi:10.1001/jama.1919.02610210026008. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  28. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (May 19, 1920). "Self-Doctoring". New Castle News. New Castle, Pennsylvania.
  29. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (April 1923). "Patent Medicines: What is a 'Patent Medicine' and Why?". Hygeia. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association. 1 (1): 43–45.
  30. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (May 1923). "Patent Medicines: What Protection Does the National Food and Drugs Act Give?". Hygeia. 1 (2): 106.
  31. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (1924). "Therapeutic Thaumaturgy". American Mercury. 3: 423–30.
  32. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (February 1927). "I-ON-A-CO – The Magic Horse Collar?". Hygeia. V: 70.
  33. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (December 26, 1929). "The Nostrum and the Public Health". New England Journal of Medicine. 201 (26): 1297–1300. doi:10.1056/NEJM192912262012611.
  34. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (July–August 1931). "The Bureau of Investigation of the American Medical Association". The American Journal of Police Science. 2 (4): 285–289. doi:10.2307/1147355. JSTOR 1147355.
  35. ^ Cramp, Arthur J. (July 1935). "Salts and Crystals Quackery". Hygeia. 13: 617.

Further reading[edit]

  • Eric W. Boyle. (2013). Quack Medicine: A History of Combating Health Fraud in Twentieth-century America. Praeger. pp. 63–86. ISBN 978-0-313-38567-4
  • Harvey Young, James (1995). "Arthur Cramp: Quackery Foe". Pharmacy in History. 37 (4): 176–182.