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Frontier swindlers had ‘medicinal’ tonics to go

Oxygenated bitters were thought to be good forwhat ails one, according to the con men of yore.

By Finn J.D. John
For the Enterprise

The four decades following the Civil War were something like a golden age of charlatanry in the West, and Oregon was no exception. From swindling tourists at a gambling parlor, to fleecing miners in a tent-city saloon, to peddling stock in nonexistent gold mines, the opportunities for a morally-flexible fellow to make a stack of ill-gotten greenbacks was probably never higher in the Beaver State than it was back then.

One of the most popular ways for a con man to steal a buck or two, back then, was with a medical-miracle scam. An enterprising con . . .