The Rev E.J.Silverton
Quacks come in all shapes and sizes but the key characteristics of a successful practitioner are a veneer of respectability, a cure that appeals to people’s concerns, a good marketing pitch and an impressive bunch of testimonials. Many of the quacks who have come under our microscope have, in some form or other, met these criteria. Someone styling himself a Reverend – and there is no reason to doubt that Silverton wasn’t a man of the Protestant cloth – would seem to be on a winner from the start.
As well as comfort for the soul Silverton had developed what he marketed as the Food of Foods. According to advertisements he was making available to the general public this wondrous manna which provided “wonderful cures of deafness and noises in the head and ears, affections of the eyes, neuralgic pains, indigestion, constipation, blood diseases, kidney and liver complaints, gout and rheumatism, bronchitis, asthma, consumption, general weakness and wasting and (of course) many other diseases”. So appealing did this panacea seem that Silverton who was billed as coming from London – always something likely to impress a provincial audience – was able to hire the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1884 for a series of lectures and free consultations. Silverton was a marketing genius and his pamphlets were full of positive and glowing testimonials, the adverts placed in the newspapers were, for the time, slick and there was an implication that Silverton was a friend of the Prince of Wales – as we have seen before, a royal connection is always a plus.
Alas, it was whilst he was in Manchester that Silverton encounter someone who would prove to be his nemesis – one Detective Sergeant Jerome Caminada of the Manchester city police who saw it as his duty to expose con men such as the Rev. When Silverton was in Manchester Caminada went to see him in disguise, limping heavily and claiming that something was wrong with his foot. Silverton checked his pulse and tongue, completely ignoring the foot, and diagnosed a case of rheumatism for which the cure was, surprise surprise, the Food of Foods which was available for the princely sum of 35 shillings, around twice the average weekly wage.
Caminada sent two assistants to visit the quack with different symptoms but the remedy was identical. Upon analysis the panacea proved to be little more than a mix of lentils, bran, flour and water. Armed with this evidence Caminada obtained a summons against Silverton for conspiracy to defraud but our quack proved a slippery fish and the stipendiary magistrate failed to bring a criminal case against him.
Notwithstanding this Caminada continued to stalk Silverton wherever he popped up, endeavouring to have his newspaper ads pulled and issuing him with summons. But Silverton was quicker than the law and he and his daughter continued to practise their quackery for around thirty years in all with some significant success.
Silverton died in Nottingham in 1895 aged 60. The local newspaper contains a report of his well-attended funeral and the moving eulogy delivered there. Presumably the congregation were blissfully unaware of that the late lamented clergyman was a quack extraordinaire.