Dr. Hercules Sanche and the Gas-Pipe Fraud

Born in 1838, Dr. Hercules Sanche was an itinerant businessman who pretended to be a doctor. He used this scheme to sell to people a type of product known as the Oxydonor Victor.

Dr. Hercules Sanche

The Oxydonor Victor is simply a metal tube filled with carbon. It was claimed, if used, ‘To cure all form of Disease quickly, intangibly, pleasantly, infallibly, during sleep or while awake; and to brace the human system in all conditions, with Animation never known and not otherwise attained, whether in Disease of Debility, or in Fatigue, and in all Physical and Mental Ordeals’.

Dr. H. Sanche Oxydonor No. 2–Museum of Health Care 016024001 a-d

How did the Oxydonor cure? By simply forcing oxygen into the body through the skin! The user was required to place the centralmetal tube, or “Vocor,” in a jar of iced water and then attach the contact disk on their ankle. Unfortunately, it was not understood that humans can only absorb oxygen through their lungs. It was declared worthless by the American Medical Association.

One of America’s most notorious quacks, Dr. Sanche apparently moved around a lot, keeping one step ahead of the authorities. His July 27, 1897 patent lists his residence as New Orleans, and his Aug 3, 1897 patent as Detroit. In 1915, a fraud order was issued against Dr. Sanche & Co., of New York, Rochester, Chicago and Detroit. He soon evaded this setback by marketing his devices from Montreal. Although he was caught by the American Government he was able to still market and sell his products in Montreal until the 1950’s! His criminal activities becoming notoriously known as the Gas-Pipe Fraud.

To see more great examples of quack medicine, visit our online collection catalogue.

Maddy Duras (History Intern 2022)

Madeleine Duras is presently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and minoring in French at Queen’s University. She is in her second year of post-secondary studies, and is looking forward to using her research and written-communication skills to learn more about the
fascinating medical history of Canada through her authoring of the Tell me a Story Tuesday posts.

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