Snake oil

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 27 15:14:44 UTC 2014

"rattle-snake's oil", 1801 or 1802

Medical Repository of Original Essays and Intelligence Relative to
..., Volume 5 by Samuel Latham Mitchell, Edward Miller, published
1802. Specifically an account of bilious colics and reliefs in 1801 by
Dr Jeremiah Barker:

"A youth, affected by this disease [rebellious colic], was relieved by
taking an ounce of rattle-snake's oil;"


"oil of rattle snake", 1687

The Royal Society of London's Philosophical Transactions ... Vol. XLI.
Part I For the Years 1739, 1740, published 1744.  "Some Account of
Virginia", Page 149, from a 1687 letter written by John Clayton:

There are three Sorts of Oils in that Country, whose Virtues, if fully
proved, might not perhaps be found despicable. The Oil of Drums, the
Oil of Rattle Snakes, and the Oil of Turkey Bustards.

The account begins on page 143 giving the year of the source letter:

A letter from the Revd Mr. John Clayton, (afterwards Dean of Kildare
in Ireland) to Dr. Grew, in Answer to several Queries relating to
Virginia, sent to him by that learned gentleman, A.D. 1687*,
communicated by the Right Revered Father in God Robert Lord Bishop of
Corke, to John Earl of Egmont, F.R.S.

For validation, John Clayton (1656 or 1657–1725) was in Virginia
between 1684 and 1686.

Here's also a December 1742 publishing of the same letter:



At 1/25/2014 06:22 AM, Michael Quinion wrote:
>Once again with World Wide Words I've trespassed on the territory of US
>researchers, this time by looking into the history of snake oil:
>A reader has this morning antedated my first example of "rattlesnake oil"
>to the Royal Gazette of New York dated 21 February 1778. If anyone with
>better research resources than mine can find other antedatings, I'd be
>most grateful.
>Michael Quinion
>World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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