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The prospect of a 21st century economy unhindered by regulation “in the interest of public health and safety” reminds me of an early Agincourt impulse I had: snake oil.


During the 19th century Americans could and did put anything on and in their bodies. Whether cosmetic, curative or nutritional, our markets were no only free, they were wide open. Regulation of food and drugs curbed a colorful segment of the free market; but until that happened, the advertised claims for such products knew no bounds. And, as you might imagine, the hordes of customers waiving fistfuls of cash were boundless. Ah, fools and their money. Be it ever so sacred.

Surely some industrious Agincourter capitalized on the gullible or the desperate. What was required? A cellar, shed or stable; paper-labelled bottles, jars or tins; interestingly-colored smelly stuff. Oh, and of course, shamelessness. I know–let me repeat: I know–that an industrious Iowa entrepreneur availed him- or herself of this unparalleled unregulated opportunity. There is a story here–a typical 19th century American tale–waiting, nay crying out, to be told.

From the outset of this project I have wanted to create labels, bottles and full-blown P.T. Barnum-esque advertising for Agincourt’s spin on the snake oil phenomenon. Any ideas on how I can find someone to craft these bottles? Your advice is welcome. 


  1. anonymous says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying witnessing the unfolding of Agincourt’s story, and I am often convinced this place is real. Regardless, if Agincourt didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent it.

    I am saddened to imagine an actual towns-person shunning their accountability to their neighbors to make a buck. I imagine this snake oil salesman as a drifter, maybe someone who spent a great deal of time here, but who never set down any roots thus easily preyed upon people’s trust. He reminds me of (and even looks like) Henry, who claimed to be Daniel Plainview’s brother in the movie “There Will Be Blood”.

    I would love to take a stab at designing your snake oil labels once the story reveals itself more. I hope to soon be reading about this potentially dark stain in Agincourt’s past.

  2. R.H.L.M. Ramsay says:

    “More real than real” has been my watchword. Yes, do stay tuned for this darker moment in community history. I actually hope to make glass bottles with an embossed “A” (perhaps like the medieval A as my icon on this blog) and paper labels. NOw all I have to do is learn glassblowing!

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