Thursday, March 3, 2011

John R. Brinkley

Dr. John R. Brinkley.
July 6, 1885 – May 26, 1942.

Dr. John R. (Richard) Brinkley was one of the greatest hucksters who ever lived in the United States. He started out as a poor boy from the South, and grew to be worth millions of dollars by the mid 1930’s. He was known as the “Goat Gland Doctor” for his famous operation, which he claimed would rejuvenate older men, and in fact claimed that some of his patients had later sired children. He built

hospitals in Milford, Kansas (1st), Little Rock, Arkansas, and Del Rio, Texas. He pioneered the use of radio in the early 1920s through the 1930s. He was the first broadcaster to build “super” radio stations, which could reach radio audiences throughout the country.

He sold patented medicines, published promotional pamphlets, advertised his hospitals, and had famous country and westerns stars entertain his audiences via his radio station. Over a period of time he owned three yachts, and even hobnobbed with the Duke of Duchess of Windsor at Nassau in the 1930s. He had a political career and almost became the governor of Kansas, much to the horror of men such as William Allen White.

Brinkley’s greatest medical nemesis was Dr. Morris Fishbein of the American Medical Association. In 1938 Dr. Fishbein published an article wherein he called Dr. Brinkley a charlatan. Dr. Brinkley sued in Texas, and lost. By this time the good doctor was in trouble with the IRS for millions in back taxes..

Brinkley declared bankruptcy in 1941. He died of heart problems in 1942 and was survived by his second wife and his son known as Johnny Boy. Today you can still see his fabulous mansion in Del Rio, a Texas historical landmark. To read more about this fascinating Kansas character see the bibliography below, or follow the links to learn more about him, and to see many pictures.

Campaign paperweight from when Dr. Brinkley ran for Governor Of Kansas.


Brinkley, J.R. The Brinkley Operation. Chicago. Sydney B. Flower, 1922.

Brinkley, John R. Dr. Brinkley’s doctor book. Del Rio, Texas, 1936.

Brinkley, John R. Road Courageous: being a compilation of radio talk given over radio station XERA during the full and Winter months of 1937 and 1938. Printed by John R. Brinkley, 1938.

Brock, Pope. Charlatan: America’s most dangerous huckster, the man who pursued him, and the age of flimflam. New York. Crown, 2008.

Carson, Gerald. The Roguish world of Doctor Brinkley. New York. Rinehart & Co., 1960.

Lee, R. Alton. The Bizarre careers of John R. Brinkley. University Press of Kentucky, 2002

Wood, Clement. The Life of a man. Kansas City, Goshorn Publishing Co., 1934.


Wikipedia entry

Quackwatch entry for The Goat Gland Doctor: the Story of John R. Brinkley.

Border Radio Quackery – go here, and you can hear Dr. Brinkley.

Kansapedia entry for John R. Brinkley.

Information on Brinkley Papers – KSHS.

Kansas Memory entries for John R. Brinkley.

A Humorous graphic novel view of Dr. Brinkley

Article by: Tom Roth, State Library of Kansas
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