The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Case of the Vanishing Belly Button, 1964
Did Poe say 'The best things in life make you sweaty'?
Actress who claimed she was kidnapped by puritans, 1950
Princess Caraboo, servant girl who became a princess, 1817
The Great Space Monkey Hoax, 1953
Man flies by own lung power, 1934
The Man-Eating Tree of Madagascar Hoax, 1874
Boy floats away in balloon, 2009
Taco Bells buys the Liberty Bell, 1996
Jernegan's Gold Accumulator Scam, 1898
Prof. Humbolt’s Electric-Light Fluid Scam, 1896

I came across the above complaint in Gleanings in Bee Culture (1896). It seems that a door-to-door salesman was going around selling something he called "Prof. Humbolt's Electric-Light Fluid," which had absolutely nothing to do with electricity or electric lighting. The term "electric" was thrown into just about every product name back then to make products sound more scientific and modern.

As far as I can tell from the description, this "electric-light fluid" was a powder (not a fluid!) that people could add to the kerosene or coal oil in lamps. Supposedly it made the lamps burn brighter, smoke less, and reduced the risk of them exploding. Kind of like those fuel additives that are sold today that are supposed to increase your car's mileage per gallon.

Of course, as the complaint indicates, Prof. Humbolt's electric-light fluid did absolutely nothing, except separate people from their money.
Categories: Products, Scams
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jan 31, 2013
Comments (1)
And of course the ever-popular 'pay a lot more to learn the secret' add-on of the true swindle.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  in  Californian Wierdo  on  Thu Jan 31, 2013  at  12:49 PM
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