Clark Stanley

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Clark Stanley
Clark Stanley.jpg
Stanley as depicted on the cover of his book The Life and Adventures of the American Cow-Boy. Life in the Far West by Clark Stanley, Better Known as the Rattle-Snake King
Bornc. 1854
Known forsource of the term "snake oil"

Clark Stanley (b. c. 1854 in Abilene, Texas, according to himself; the town was founded in 1881), the self-styled "Rattlesnake King", marketed snake oil as a patent medicine.


An advertisement for Clark Stanley's Snake Oil Liniment.

Stanley claimed that, starting in 1879, after eleven years working as a cowboy, he studied for more than two years with a Hopi medicine man at Walpi, Arizona.[1][2] This supposedly included learning the "secrets of snake oil". With the help of a Boston druggist he began marketing his product at Western medicine shows. In 1893 he and his rattlesnakes gained attention at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.[3] Later he went on to establish production facilities in Beverly, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island.

In 1916, subsequent to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, Stanley's concoction was examined and found to be of no value. It was found to contain mineral oil, a fatty compound thought to be from beef, capsaicin from chili peppers, and turpentine.[4] He was fined $20.00 (approximately to $470 in 2019).[5] The term "snake oil" would go on to become a popular euphemism for ineffective or fraudulent products, particularly those marketed as medicines or cures.


  1. ^ Frank Dobie, J. (1982). Rattlesnakes. ISBN 9780292770232.
  2. ^ Gandhi, Lakshmi (26 August 2013). "A History Of 'Snake Oil Salesmen'".
  3. ^ Gandhi, Lakshmi (26 August 2013). "A History of 'Snake Oil Salesmen'". NPR.
  4. ^ Chemistry, United States Bureau of (1917). Service and Regulatory Announcements. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  5. ^ "Inflation Calculator". August 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2019.