No. 338
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
September 22, 2017

Diamond Kng

By the end of the nineteenth century, hundreds of self-proclaimed doctors crisscrossed America in traveling medicine shows. Some led elaborate tent shows with dozens of performers using patent medicine sales to finance their productions. Other focused more on the medicine than the show.  J. I. Lighthall, better known as the Diamond King, was a bit of both—he was a charismatic showman and a master of marketing, but he was also a dedicated healer.

J I Lighthall

J. I. Lighthall was born in Tiskilwa, Illinois in 1856. He claimed to be one-eighth Indian and left home at age eleven bound for the Indian Territory where he learned “Indian Herbal Theory.” Lighthall decided that “what was good for an Indian certainly was good for a white man” and he considered it his duty to share his knowledge with the civilized world.

A natural born showman, J. l. Lighthall soon had one of the most impressive medicine shows in the country. At its height, Lighthall’s show would enter a town with a fabulous procession of cowboys and Indians, singers and other performers, a brass band, wagons pulled by decorated horses, and a brass trimmed chariot.

Lighthall was boyishly handsome with long flowing hair. He was known as the Diamond King for the flamboyant diamond studded costumes he wore. Sometimes he would appear in an ankle-length sealskin coat with matching broad brimmed hat; sometimes in a red velvet suit with bottoms made from $5, $10 and $20 gold pieces and a Mexican sombrero trimmed in gold and silver.

As many travelling doctors did, Lighthall advertised painless dentistry and he would open each show by pulling teeth, free of charge. As the brass band played, Lighthall, with incredible speed, went to work, tossing each extracted tooth high in the air. He claimed his home in Peoria had a walk paved with human teeth.

King of Pain

The Diamond King’s signature product was called Spanish Oil, The King of Pain, a blood purifier and liver regulator. The tonic, a brown liquid which reportedly smelled like a combination of turpentine and whiskey was made in Peoria by Lighthall’s mother and her third husband Isaac Wright, and shipped to the Diamond King’s camp and to drugstores throughout the country. This is how Lighthall described it in verse:

A balm is hidden in the leaf,
That God has given for relief.
The Indians of the Western plains
Have found that they will cure our pains

So now the author does extend
A helping hand, an honest friend.
He’ll cure your aches, relieve your pain
If you will buy his King of Pain.

It’s made of barks, and oils and leaves,
And seldom ever man deceives.
It never fails to satisfy
And on it, friends, you can rely

In 1882, J. I. Lighthall published a book entitled The Indian Household Medicine Guide. In addition to being a comprehensive guide to Lighthall’s brand of herbal healing - including dozens of recipes - the book is a good laymen’s guide to conventional nineteenth century medical knowledge. For those with health problems, the book included a list of health related questions which could be answered and sent to Lighthall’s office. He would send his diagnosis and prescription by return mail.

In January 1886, J. I. Lighthall, twenty-nine years old, died of smallpox while preforming in San Antonio, Texas. His passing was noted by newspapers throughout America.


Sources:

  • Fowler, Gene. Mystic healers & medicine shows: blazing trails to wellness in the Old West and beyond. Santa Fe, N.M.: Ancient City Press, 1997.
  • Lighthall, J. I.. The Indian household medicine guide. Peoria, Ill.: [s.n.], 1882.
  • McNamara, Brooks. Step Right Up. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995.

Add comment

  Country flag

biuquote
  • Comment
  • Preview
Loading

"We follow vice and folly where a police officer dare not show his head, as the small, but intrepid weasel pursues vermin in paths which the licensed cat or dog cannot enter."

 The Sunday Flash 1841

Month List


The National Night Stick | All posts tagged 'Hoax'
No. 338
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
September 22, 2017


But what a lovely sensation she created among the Henderson, Tenn. sweet girls and susceptible boys before her sex was discovered.
[More]

Avenged Her Father’s Murder.

Around 1:00 a.m., the morning of September 7, 1892, Richard Wright was awakened by a man calling his name, outside his farmhouse in Payne, Indiana. He recognized the voice as that of his son-in-law, ...
More...Murder By Gaslight

WILLIAM CONNELLY
alias: OLD BILL, WATSON
HOTEL THIEF
September 15, 2017
More...
Coming Soon...
Foretell Your Future!

Another photo of the Soapy Smith gang?

A few of the Soapy Smith Gang Waiting for a boat to arrive authors collection (Click image to enlarge) ET ANOTHER MISIDENTIFIED PHOTOGRAPH  of the Soap Gang. The clothing suggests 1910-...
More...Soapy Smith's Soap Box

2008: Kedisaletse Tsobane

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.) On this day in 2008, 49-year-old Kedisaletse Tsobane was executed in the southern African nation of Botswana for the murder of ...
More...Executed Today

The Ninth Avenue El curving by Morningside Park

These are the tracks of the Ninth Avenue Elevated making an S curve beside Morningside Park—which is what this 1908 postcards says. To my eyes, it’s difficult to recognize the park of 2017, whic...
More...Ephemeral New York



But what a lovely sensation she created among the Henderson, Tenn. sweet girls and susceptible boys before her sex was discovered.
[More]
"We follow vice and folly where a police officer dare not show his head, as the small, but intrepid weasel pursues vermin in paths which the licensed cat or dog cannot enter."

 The Sunday Flash 1841

Month List