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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Snake oil saleswoman pitches dubious health tonic

A door-to-door saleswoman aggressively peddling an “antiseptic” was the target of the city’s health officer in November 1920.  (S-R archives)
A door-to-door saleswoman aggressively peddling an “antiseptic” was the target of the city’s health officer in November 1920. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

A door-to-door saleswoman used aggressive, possibly threatening, tactics while attempting to peddle an all-purpose health tonic.

She told homeowners that this wonderful “antiseptic” could cure the flu and just about every other contagious malady, not to mention corns. She said that city health officials endorsed her product.

When customers declined to buy, she would take out her notebook, take down their addresses, and tell them that the health department would soon take “compulsory action.” She told customers “trouble will follow.”

Dr. Ralph Hendricks, the head of the city’s health department, said he had endorsed no such product. He asked people to notify his office when they encountered the woman, and if they found her they would “put her where the city furnishes the antiseptic” – that is, in the city jail.

From the mystery beat: Mystery still surrounded the murder of Harry Gregg, who had been shot by a masked intruder. Gregg was killed while attempting to prevent an assault on his wife in his Othello home.

Authorities thought they might have solved the mystery when they discovered the body of a man in the Columbia River near White Bluffs. He was identified as Peter Sairbrush of Othello, and was found with a revolver taped to his wrist and a bullet through his brain. Sairbrush presumably waded into the river before committing suicide.

However, the connection with the Gregg murder did not withstand scrutiny. The gun was not the type used in the Gregg murder, and the sheriff said Sairbrush’s “past record would not warrant the belief that he could have committed the crime in Othello.”

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