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Iowa History Daily: November 27 - A Cancer Quack

Iowa History Daily: On November 27, 1882, one of Iowa’s greatest grifters, Norman Baker, was born in Muscatine. A noted ‘cancer quack’ of the early 1900s, Baker used radio to amass over $10 million for bunk cancer treatments before conviction for mail fraud ended his enterprise in 1940.

Always an entertainer and entrepreneur, Baker embarked on a brief career in Vaudeville during his teenage years before returning to southeastern Iowa. Starting a variety of businesses including a mail-order catalog and art correspondence school, Baker emulated Shenandoah Seed Salesman Henry Field’s technique of using radio to reach a larger consumer audience.

Starting KTNT and building a spectacle-oriented programming schedule, the station drew many from across the Midwest to Sunday afternoon carnivals featuring Baker in his trademark lavender tie and white suit. Expanding into other endeavors, Baker soon started the Midwest Free Press and TNT magazine. Gaining fame, and a golden ‘key to the White House,’ for his efforts in getting Herbert Hoover elected, perhaps represented the peak of Baker’s career.

In 1929, TNT first ran advertisements for a new cancer cure and clinic founded by Baker in Muscatine. Later exposed as a mixture of clover, corn silk, watermelon seed and water, Baker’s ‘cancer cure’ led the Federal Radio Commission to shut down KTNT, and subsequent problems including a four-year stint in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary followed. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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