- In the 1920s, from the small town of Milford, Kansas,
John Romulus Brinkley, the Great Rejuvenator, managed to convince thousands
of men across America that he had control of the Fountain of Youth. He
persuaded the worn and aging male that he could put new oomph in his love
life. The secret, Brinkley proclaimed daily from his own powerful radio
station, KFKB, was in the glands.
- "A man is no older than his glands" vibrated
over the airways for over fifteen hours a day, and Doctor John R Brinkley
offered to make a man's glands as young aswell, at least as young
as the goat testicles he castrated and substituted for the patient's.
- John Brinkley had sensed that American men of every class
would clamor to let him take their money if he could convince them that
eternal youth would be theirs in return. Brinkley's first schemes
had been, perhaps, a little too scientific to capture the imagination of
the ordinary mind; but when he hit on the fantasy of substituting the glands
of the proverbially virile goat for those of a worn out, old or middle-aged
man, his practice began to thrive. By the time that he had finished his
con, all the ordinary quacks had been put to shame. Brinkley had built
his pitch of everlasting sexual prowess into a ten million dollar empire.
- Born in Beta, South Carolina, in 1885, Brinkley's mother
died before he reached the age of six, and his father passed on by the
time John was ten. Left in the poverty-stricken home of his aunt,
Brinkley sought escape, and when he reached age sixteen he jumped at the
chance. Young John dreamed of a life better than the one that fate had
tossed him in the Carolina hills, and his journeys took him to Baltimore,
where he applied for admission to the Johns Hopkins University Medical
- His application was reviewed and refused, and the dejected
Brinkley might have made his way back to Beta empty-handed except for a
smooth-talking man who approached him with a tale of a "private"
medical school. Brinkley was told that he need only to sign on the dotted
line, and he could become a doctor through a correspondence course.
- Eager to make his mark in the medical world, Brinkley
snapped at the chance. The course covered only herbal medicine, but this
made no difference to enthusiastic young John. He was more than pleased
to be a doctor of herbology--until four years later when several doctors
told him that roots and bay leaves were on the way out.
- Disgusted, Brinkley headed back for Beta where he married
Sally Wike and tried to make a life in his home town. But Beta could not
hold him. After he had lived in the cities of the Eastern Seaboard,
Beta's one-horse pace could not be tolerated. John and Sally packed their
bags and headed for Chicago.
- With his background in herbal medicine somewhat correlative
to pharmaceutical chemistry, Brinkley enrolled in an advanced course at
Bennett Medical College. His studies continued for a few years; and when
he had completed them, Brinkley was awarded a diploma from the Eclectic
Medical University of Kansas City.
- With this formidable-sounding institution behind him
he was now Dr. J.. R. Brinkley, and he and Sally traveled east to New York
where he flim-flammed the city out of a permit to set up shop as a dealer
in herbal pharmaceuticals.
- Regardless of his new credentials, Brinkley learned anew
that people just were not buying roots and herbs. Later, when a fellow
"doctor" told him that he knew how to gather in all the money
they would ever need, Brinkley gave the man his undivided attention. The
medical team set up shop in Greenville, South Carolina, calling themselves
- Disgusted with Brinkley's shady schemes, Sally asked
him for a divorce, and when he would not give her one she walked out on
him, taking their child with her. Brinkley sought her out and brought her
back two times before he realized that any personal magnetism he may have
had which had once attracted Sally had long since weakened. At last he
gave up and granted her the divorce.
- Forever restless, Brinkley moved away from his partner
and the electromedic racket. He traveled through Tennessee and Arkansas
and picked up practitioner's licenses in both states. His next lengthy
stop was Kansas.
- Brinkley realized that Kansas could be a new life for
him. He arrived at the small town of Fulton with a new wife and a head
full of new money-making ideas. After only six months in the town, he was
elected mayor, and Brinkley began grooming a goatee--which had a greater
effect of convincing people that he was a doctor than the parchment from
the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City posted on his office wall.
- From Fulton, Brinkley made the fateful move to Milford,
Kansas, on October 7, 1917. The town had neither a doctor nor a hospital
and looked like easy pickings to Brinkley. He opened a drugstore and once
again went into practice on the strength of his questionable diploma.
- About this time Brinkley began reading about the research
of a Russian scientist working in Paris, who was trying to rejuvenate chimpanzees
by exchanging their glands from one specimen to another. Serge Voronoff
was actually a serious experimenter, performing graftings on his monkeys
in the interest of science.
- Scientifically Voranoff's results were inconclusive,
but when Brinkley thought about the experiments, dollar signs rolled
up before his eyes. All he would need was a few affidavits from satisfied
customers and their wives to give the good doctor a line of customers clamoring
for virile goat-gland transplants.
- By August of 1918 his business had expanded so much that
Brinkley had a fifty-bed hospital constructed to handle the flow of
patients through Milford. The hospital was not second-rate in any department.
Brinkley's assistants were well-dressed; the rooms were as sterile as any
other hospital's and the facilities were up-to-the-minute.
- Strangely enough, very few of Brinkley's patients complained
that the operation was unsuccessful. Most of them left Milford feeling
potent again, and after they reached home reports from their wives
confirmed the astounding fact. Very little was known about the power of
mental suggestion in 1920.
- With the gland business booming, Brinkley faced a serious
problem in the shortage of Kansas goats. He used the money gained (fifty
patients a week at $750 a patient) to build a spur line into Milford from
a nearby railway. Carloads of goats began coming in from Arkansas and Tennessee.
- Even though the Goat Gland Rejuvenation business boomed,
Brinkley, ever alert for a new source of income, was advised to go into
radio by a Kansas City advertising man. It sounded like a good way to sell
himself and his operations, so Brinkley erected KFKB (Kansas First,
Kansas Best) and began broadcasting across the nation's midsection
for over fifteen hours a day. Brinkley not only sold goat gland sex
surgeries, but he dug back into his past of herb peddling to sell all sorts
of cures over the air. The kickbacks he began receiving from druggists
across the nation soon equaled his income from the goat-gland business
- As he reached the peak of his form, Brinkley began hearing
voices of dissent from around the country. At first he ignored them as
the money kept rolling in, but some of the complainants had more sway than
he had estimated. The American Medical Association began to howl that
Brinkley had had a shoddy education and had, in fact, bought his diploma.
But Kansas loved John Brinkley and refused to ship him off for trial.
- Even so, the wall had begun to crack.
- In 1930 a reporter from the Kansas City Star began
banging out articles that accused John "Goat Gland" Brinkley
of everything from mutilation to murder. The Star had dug up
evidence that Brinkley's operations were not permanently successful and
that at least one man, a New Jersey carpenter, had died of tetanus
after taking the Brinkley treatment.
- Brinkley found himself fighting a losing battle. When
officials in Kansas were confronted with the death certificates of 42 patients
who had died under Brinkley's care, they had no choice but to revoke his
- Brinkley circumvented that crisis by hiring regularly
licensed surgeons to perform his operations, but he was in a battle to
save his moneymaking radio station, as well. In Washington, Brinkley took
the stand as a sort of character witness for himself and explained that
he had given new life to seven newspapermen in Los Angeles.
- But the Kansas City Star reporter, who had
begun the avalanche, jumped up and shouted, "Yes, but one of them
- The accusation was devastating. Although Brinkley won the
right to broadcast while he appealed, he could not forestall the inevitable.
- Perhaps hoping to gain enough power in Kansas to
control the boards and legislators, Brinkley announced his candidacy for
governor. In spite of the fact that he was too late to be put on the ballot,
Brinkley ran as a write-in candidate and was barely nosed out by his opponents.
- Brinkley began to slide. He sold the Kansas radio station
and set off to build one south of the border that would blast from Mexico
into the South and Southwest. Convinced that the people of Kansas loved
him, Brinkley ran once again for governor in 1932, but he was nosed
out by Alf Landon.
- Out of national embarrassment the State Department began
putting pressure on the Mexican government to shut down Goat-Gland Brinkley's
border blaster. By this time Brinkley was sitting atop a ten-million-dollar
empire, and he only acquiesced to the wishes of the Mexican authorities
when troops showed up at the station's studios.
- After Brinkley's powerful radio voice was silenced, medical
authorities began taking pot shots at him from all sides. Brinkley sued
for libel but the courts were quick to rule against him. By 1941 the Great
Rejuvenator had so many lawsuits against him that a court in Texas declared
- Brinkley was especially distraught over the loss of his
radio station, his sole means of fighting back against those who would
destroy him. On June 20, 1941, he suffered a coronary occlusion, according
to his doctors, quite likely the result of stress over the confiscation
of his radio station.
- On August 23rd, a blood clot in his leg prompted its
amputation on August 28th. On September 23rd, the U.S. Post Office had
completed its tally of Brinkley's almost incalculable number of mail fraud
violations and presented him with a 12-million dollar suit.
- On December 22nd, the Great Rejuvenator suffered another
heart attack when he witnessed the very last vestiges of an empire built
on the false promise of eternal sexual prowess crumble beyond all reconstruction,
beyond all rejuvenation. On May 26, 1942, at age fifty-six, John Romulus
Brinkley died at his home in San Antonio.