Medical ads in the early 1900s were imaginative, and sometimes a bit deceptive. Many were disguised as news articles that led readers to think they were getting a legitimate story, only to discover that a medical “cure” was at the heart of the piece. One story in The Sioux Valley News (Canton’s weekly paper) for October 15, 1909, began with the headline: “So Deceptive” with the additional blurb: Many Canton People Fail to Realize the Seriousness.” Of course, readers would worry that something was going on in Canton that they should know about. In this case, the point came quickly. “Backache is so deceptive. It comes and goes and keeps you guessing. Learn the cause–then cure it. Nine times out of ten it comes from the kidneys. That’s why Doan’s Kidney Pills cure it.” The story then gave a testimonial from a carpenter in Canton, with name and address included.
A headline on July 1, 1910 was: “A Frightful Wreck.” The reader then discovered that train, automobile, and buggy wrecks could cause “cuts, bruises, abrasions, sprains or wounds that demand Bucklen’s Arnica Salve.” Another story in The Sioux Valley News in November of that year is difficult to analyze. It begins as a piece about two prominent doctors whose expertise in the treatment of all chronic diseases had been so great and wonderful that “it is hard indeed to find the dividing line between skill and miracle.” They were the first doctors in America to do away with “knife, with blood and with all pain in the successful treatment and cure” of diseases like appendicitis, gallstones, tumors, goiters, and cancer. Readers were invited to see these two physicians, for free this time, while they were in town.