People really did buy into Opie's "miracle salve" in the Fifties

Classic sitcoms proved the only thing miracle salves were really good for was a solid laugh.

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Opie lugs a box around Mayberry with a label on its side proclaiming MIRACLE SALVE in the Andy Griffith Show episode called “A Deal Is a Deal.”

Although many today think of "miracle salve" as snake-oil medicine from frontier times when people didn’t know any better, this episode shines a light on how the Fifties were just as fraught a time for anyone foolish enough to buy into empty promises.

In the Fifties, there was a product called Wunder-Salbe advertised in all the newspapers, promising to be a "miracle salve" you could use to relieve any pain.

That included, apparently, everything from arthritis to paralysis. This miracle salve promised to cure "inflammation, swelling & wounds, exzema, boils, carbuncles, bronchitis, burns, frost bite, old sores, varicose veins, dandruff, pimples, insect bites, athletic feet, bunions, rheumatism, asthma, bed sores, poison ivy, removing corns & warts."

But Wunder-Salbe wasn’t the only miracle salve around. There was even one miracle salve that claimed it could cure cancer.

It seemed so long as there was someone who wanted to believe in these salves, there was money to be made vending them.

By 1959, new miracle salves were still emerging, including a product called Pedolatum. Dubbing itself "something new under the sun!" and "a wonder drug for burns," the product lured buyers by assuring them it was "the foremost medical discovery in years."

You can see how a young, good-natured kid like Opie might want to make sure everybody in Mayberry had this stuff. When he was going door to door in "A Deal Is a Deal," he wasn’t trying to fool anybody. He thought he had the real deal up for sale.

Inflating the healing and medicinal properties of products can cause real harm, though, and the term "miracle salve" today is synonymous with snake oil, an obvious false cure.

Of course, many people in the Fifties knew to doubt these dubious products, and just as sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show had started having fun with miracle salves, average Joes had begun joking about bogus treatments.

In 1952, a Pennsylvania reverend was awarded a "Liars' Trophy" and $50 for his entry in a competition of bold lies passed off as truths. He won with a whopper about a "miracle salve which grew a new dog on the end of a tail after the animal had been killed by an auto."

One type of "miracle salve" that has endured, however, is tied to human hair growth.

In the Fifties, the Vice President of Purdue University pushed atom-bomb scientists to collaborate with agriculturists to develop a hair tonic that sped up the growth of a man’s beard.

He considered this an emergency, directing the scientists to use nuclear fission to borrow from gardening and fertilize the human head.

And he was so certain this miracle salve would work that he told the scientists to make sure they could stop the hair growth once they started it, worried about beards growing for miles like a Shel Silverstein drawing.

Unlike the reputation of most miracle salves, though, which marketed themselves off false promises, the V.P. did expect to slap a warning label ono his hair tonic.

"Perhaps, we had better warn the brothers not to use the miracle salve on their heads," he pondered to The Times in 1951. "The new hair might come out a different color."

That, of course, evokes another classic TV moment: the final episode of The Brady Bunch, which aired in 1974, a decade after Opie learned the truth about his miracle salve.

In "The Hair-Brained Scheme," Bobby, like Opie, hopes to earn money selling miracle salve, a hair tonic that accidentally turns Greg’s hair bright orange the day before his high school graduation.

We think these sitcoms are proof that all miracle salve is really good for is a solid laugh.

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justjeff 6 days ago
One footnote: The article's title is "People really did buy into Opie's "miracle salve" in the Fifties"...

The thing is, TAGS didn't start until 1960... so the correct title should be "People really did buy into "miracle salve" in the Fifties"... leaving Opie out of this...
Michael 7 days ago
Don't forget, this sort of thing was sold on those high power Mexican radio stations in the fifties, and I think into the sixties. The stations were in Mexico, but were intended fir the US audience. Sold all kinds if weird stuff. This is where Wolfman Jack got his fame.
LoveMETV22 Michael 5 days ago
Makes me think of the movie" The Arrival" 1996. Charlie Sheen. Mexican radio station connection in the movie.
DanielZabo 7 days ago
You’d be hooked too. Especially if the “miracle elixir” you were guzzling down had large amounts of opioids or the original headache buster the classic Coca~Cola with its abundance of cocaine with a big ole swig or 6 1/2 ounces of the devils aspirin in liquid form.
Sears catalog sold Heroin for $1.50 + 1 syringe, 2 needles, and 2 vials of Bayer Heroin. (Hey Now) This was possible at the turn of the 20th. century !
justjeff DanielZabo 5 days ago
What was allowed at the turn of the century in drugs, foods, etc. eventually led to the Pure Food and Drug Act.
F5Twitster 8 days ago
The word “miracle” should have been enclosed in quotation marks in all circumstances. To have done otherwise was wholly irresponsible.
jcpiotr 8 days ago
Can you put on more episodes of Batman and or Taxi..? Loved em..!
Steve2021 8 days ago
"There's a sucker born everyday ! " P T Barnum.
And sheep DO do the darnedest things.
Was that one from Linkletter?
Sheila02181 8 days ago
Speaking of Vitameatavegamin, isn't that Little Ricky third from the left?
Yes it is. He played that part on "I Love Lucy". He is actor Richard Keith. He played Johnny Paul Jason on Andy's show.
Mirramanee Sheila02181 7 days ago
He actually appeared on a couple of the Andy Griffith Show episodes.
justjeff GoUTVols1961 5 days ago
His name is Keith Thibodeaux
Andybandit 9 days ago
I remember the episode when Aunt Bee told the elicser to make her younger and she was drunk instead.
HP11 Andybandit 5 days ago
Elixir......
rickyrose Andybandit 3 days ago
I knew what you meant. You're okay.
ttenchantr 9 days ago
Today he'd be selling horse dewormer! :P
Coldnorth ttenchantr 9 days ago
What a sad truth
DanielZabo ttenchantr 7 days ago
Someone’s been watching too much cnn/msnbc because they actually prescribe that stuff at your local doctors (human) office. But the ill-informed are just propaganda machines for the American haters on the left. But I guess that was Donald Trump’s fault too?
Coldnorth DanielZabo 7 days ago
Not here to argue. Just having fun
Mirramanee DanielZabo 7 days ago
Yes, it was.
DanielZabo Mirramanee 5 days ago
Trump was right!
rickyrose DanielZabo 3 days ago
Get somewhere Dude, and out of here. Go FB or Twitter, Not here.
kimmer 9 days ago
All we had growing up was "Bag Balm"....Unguentine...drawing salve....the end...lol
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I get a drug every six months to counter my autoimmune disease. Thst means I have little immunity in general, and vaccinations either don't work or don't do much.I got both doses anyway.

The only way to end this is through vaccination.I

I almost died two years ago. Without Dr. Fauci's work on my disease, the disease is fatal. But dying takes a long time.

People complain about masks, and they complain about lockdowns, and they now complain about vaccinations. But they are the ones holding up a return to normal.

AnnieM justjeff 5 days ago
Maybe you're thinking of Bactine?
justjeff AnnieM 5 days ago
Nope... and it's still sold today.

From Wikipedia: "Unguentine is an over-the-counter topical antiseptic ointment produced by Lee Pharmaceuticals. It was introduced in 1893 as the first antiseptic surgical dressing ointment by Norwich Pharmaceuticals, who later brought Pepto Bismol to market.

It is used for treating the pain of minor burns, poison ivy, poison oak, itching, minor skin wounds and insect bites. Its active ingredients are camphor (3%), phenol (2.5%), tannic acid (2.2%) and zinc oxide (6.6%)."
AnnieM justjeff 4 days ago
I'd never heard of it before, but with camphor as an ingredient, it sounds like it would sting! We used Bactine in our house when I was growing up; my Mom wouldn't use Mercurochrome because it turned everything red and wouldn't wash out!
justjeff 9 days ago
Snake Oil salesmen/women are alive and well. Look at the dozens and dozens of TV commercials for miracle diets, vitamin and herbal supplements, mechanical or electronic apperatus for 'fixing' things, etc.

Even 'big pharma' has had its share of snake oil... look at all of the drug recalls of the past decade. The oldest saying is true: "If it seems too good to be true, it usually is"!

Or... to quote from "I Heard it Through the Grapevine": "Believe half of what you..some or none of what you hear"...
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Cougar LoveMETV22 8 days ago
I would too!!
robert justjeff 7 days ago
Ok, the Andy Griffith Show is a classic and has been fun to watch but who hasn't seen every episode 76 times or more. Give it a 6 year rest.
justjeff robert 7 days ago
I kind of agree. MeTV should try to get "Car 54, Where are You?" back... or perhaps some other comedy series and rotate them... like "I'm DIckens...He's Fenster", "The Joey Bishop Show", "My Little Margie", "Love that Bob"... or bring back Burns and Allen or Jack Benny...
Moverfan justjeff 7 days ago
Antenna TV had The Joey Bishop Show (the sitcom, not the talk show) some five or six years ago. I remember dozing off during Johnny Carson one night and suddenly looking at Joey...spent about ten minutes wondering where he'd come from and what he was doing on my TV.
harlow1313 9 days ago
Today is no different, with the many pills and potions which make unsubstantiated claims, marketed to willing consumers.

We live in superstitious times.
LoveMETV22 9 days ago
Every so often you see one of those cure all potions on the older programs like
I love Lucy's "Vitameatavegamin. The Three Stooges did a few episodes. I think one of the
Little House on the Prairie episodes had a miracle powder. I know I've seen others but those few come to mind without researching it.
Actually there were 2 LHOTP episodes like this: Remember Mary and Laura were entrusted with the church money to get Reverend Alden a present? They had decided (I know I'm going to mess this up, but I'm close,) to get him a Bible. They couldn't decide how to raise the money. Anyway...I think Laura talked Mary into spending it on some snake oil. (Either that, or some beauty product.) It didn't work, they only had money left over for a case/box, to put his old Bible inside.
Yes know that you mention it I do remember it. And the Reverend liked it. Good episode.
LoveMETV22 LoveMETV22 8 days ago
Oops meant now not know Lol.
You actually got it mostly right. I believe that the case for the Bible was actually one of the boxes the miracle salve came in (not totally sure about that). Also, Harriet Oleson (always looking to one up everyone else in town) happened to order the very same Bible the girls were trying to get, so it was actually a good thing Mary and Laura were not able to sell their salve, as the Reverend would have ended up with TWO of the same Bible.
stephaniestavr5 9 days ago
All snake oils are created =. Meaning that they are all equally adept at getting one drunk! Since I think some of them were at least 80% proof!
The story mentioned that the vendor made the suggestion that we should worn folks not to put it on their heads....for fear the hair would be a different color.
Can any man explain, then why does a man's beard (sometimes,) grow out a different color than the hair on their head? I know I've seen this. Thank you!
Beard hair is almost never the same color as the hair on the same man's scalp. This was a plot point in an episode of "Dragnet" in which Friday and Gannon are faced with a series of con artists who all have the same general size and build but each carries different distinguish facial features, a wart on one, a scar on another, etc.

The case finally breaks when one potential victim tells the officers that the man had a fake beard. She knows it was fake because it matched exactly the hair on top of his head, which she explains never happens, and she knows this fact because she works in the makeup department at one of the movie studios. The LAPD immediately start looking for someone who owns a theatrical makeup kit.
Maybe it gave way to the "here's for what ails ya" phrase LoL
Sticking with the hair topic: the story mentions how there are salves/creams/tonics to grow hair. (Whatever became of Hair Club For Men? Remember the commercial that went something like: "I'm not just a spokesman, I'm also a client/member.") I've seen a couple of businesses that have come out with a baseball cap that both genders can wear, to grow back their head fur. When I first saw one of them, I thought this was a throwback. I was seeing a retromercial. Unbelievable!
Hair Club is still around [my landlord uses it], but Sy Sperling has passed on... Can you picture Bugs Bunny shopping for a 'rug' at the "Hare Club for Wabbits"?
Oh, justjeff, you're such a card! Yes, I could see Bugs shopping at Hare Club, or to use an alliterative name: Hare[Hair] Hutch for Hares.
The question you asked I don’t know the answer to but my mustache hair is turning a slight Red from black . Only at the Philtrum though? It’s because I swig my crest anti bacteria mouthwash from the bottle and I’m thinking the peroxide mixed with sunshine is causing it to turn a slight ginger color on me. lol true stuff.
Runeshaper 9 days ago
I feel like I've seen many salesmen in old westerns (even posing as doctors) selling miracles in a bottle, but miracle salve might be just as good LOL
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