Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/757

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737
SPECIFICS FOR THE CURE OF INEBRIETY.

lished their experience, together with the thanks and public prayers for the great blessing conferred on the world by these means. Like the "South Sea bubble," Perkinsism dissolved and was no more. The branch institutes for treatment by the tractors closed for want of patients, and the tractors disappeared. Behind all this tremendous enthusiasm for the good of science and humanity appeared a commercial spirit that was startling.

These tractors were claimed to be gold and silver, and sold at from ten to twenty-five dollars each. In reality, they were made of brass and polished steel, at a cost of about twelve cents each, in an obscure Connecticut village, from which they were shipped to the inventor, who sent them all over the world. Of course, Perkins made a fortune, which compensated in a measure for his sudden fall from greatness.

While this was a great empirical epidemic, with a mercenary object, based on a few half -defined truths, it materially furthered the growth and evolution of this subject. Many of the wild theories which gathered about Perkinsism suggested clearer conceptions to later observers. Like the specific inebriety epidemic, it began as an assumed discovery of some new power, claimed from metals (not used), with some new physiological action by some new process, enveloped in mystery and only known to the discoverer. The tractors were patented, and only made by Perkins, and the certificates and statements of those cured furnished all the evidence. Literally, the effects were entirely mental, depending on the credulity and expectancy of those who claimed to be helped.

The present epidemic wave for the cure of inebriety is hardly up to the average of former empiric efforts in adroit manipulation of the credulous public.

The successful charlatan of modern times has always exhibited some psychological skill in the display of assumed truth and the concealment of his real motives. In these inebriety cures there is a coarseness of methods, with brazen assumptions and display of pecuniary motives, that quickly repel all except the unthinking. The circulars, statements, and appeals to the public are overdone, and sadly lacking in psychological skill. A certain crankiness, with strange combinations of rashness and caution, stupidity and cunning, strongly suggests that inebriate intellects are the guiding spirits in the management of these cures.

On the other hand, the very spirit and hurry of the movement suggest a full recognition of the brevity of the work and the need of active labor before the "night cometh when no man can work." In this the highest commercial and psychological skill appears. Dependence for popularity of the cure on the emotional