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Chapter 21. Stylish Sentences > Flexible Flyers - Pg. 216

Stylish Sentences 216 By the 1800s, several hundred medicine shows traveled across America, giving a wide variety of shows. At one end of the scale were simple magic acts; at the other, complicated spectacles. From 1880 to 1910, one of the largest of these shows was "The King of the Road Shows," the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company. Two experienced entertainers, Charles H. "Texas Charlie" Bigelow and John E. "Doc" Healy, had started the company more than two decades before. From their headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, the partners sent as many as twenty-five shows at a time across America. Texas Charlie managed the "medicine" end of the production, training the "Doctors" and "Pro- fessors" who gave the "Medical Lectures." Doc Healy was in charge of hiring the performers-- from fiddlers to fire-eaters, including comedians, acrobats, singers, and jugglers. Both Indians and whites were hired. All the Indians, including Mohawks, Iroquois, Crees, Sioux, and Blackfeet, were billed as "pure-blooded Kickapoos," a completely fictional tribe. All the entertainers wore outrageous costumes. The Native Americans were covered in feathers, colored beads, and crude weapons. The "Doctors" and "Professors" were equally glittery. Some wore fringed leather coats, silver-capped boots; others, fancy silk shirts, a type of tuxedo jacket called a "frock coat," and high silk hats. One of the most outlandish figures was the glib "Nevada Ned, the King of Gold." Born Ned T. Oliver, this entertainer wore a fancy suit studded with buttons made of gold. On his head he sported a huge sombrero dangling 100 gold coins. During the summer, the Kickapoo shows were presented under enormous tents. When the weather turned chilly, the troupe moved into to town halls and opera houses. Most often, the show was free. Occasionally, adults were charged a dime to get in. Where did the profits come from? The sale of "medicine." According to the show's advertisements, these wonder-working Kickapoo brews were "compounded according to secret ancient Kickapoo Indian tribal formulas." Among the ingredients were "blood root, feverwort, spirit gum, wild poke berries, slippery elm, white oak bark, dock root, and other Natural Products." These "medicines" sold for fifty cents to