Dr. John Brinkley: Quack Doctor, Radio Personality, and Politician


  • Jason C. Gilliand Wichita State University


John R. Brinkley, mass media marketing, radio advertising, mail advertisements, Federal Radio Commission, Kansas Medical Board, goat gland operations


"What a little tinkering with his character, a little more honesty here, a little more intelligence there-would have made him a real leader of men."1 William Allen White, the famous newspaperman from Emporia never was an ardent fan of Dr. John R. Brinkley. During much of the 1930s, White, along with other news writers, newspaper owners, medical journal writers, radio men, and other various commentators, engaged in a campaign to destroy the famous "rejuvenation" doctor. Others considered Brinkley to be the greatest doctor in North America, if not the world. Brinkley indeed, could have improved on his honesty and his character. However, he was not unintelligent or backwards. On the contrary, he was one of America's first true media moguls. He had a true savoir-faire for self-promotion and understanding for the awesome possibilities of mass media marketing. Brinkley saw potential in new technologies and devised new methods to exploit them to their fullest. He used both good and bad press to further the world's knowledge of himself and his work. He pioneered mass advertising by utilizing America's modern postal system, newspaper advertisements, pamphlets, radio, and recorded media. With the same zeal that he exuded in his medical practice, he unintentionally became an innovator in radio broadcasting, modern American political campaigning, mass media advertising and "get rich quick" schemes. Much of what we are familiar with today in the world of "as seen on TV", quack medicines and cures, contemporary political campaigning and the modern day country music industry, can be traced, in part, back to Dr. John Brinkley, the goat-gland doctor.