In the bustling streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee, March 1885 marked the arrival of an enigmatic figure who would soon capture the town's imagination and skepticism in equal measure. Dr. Lighthall, as he grandly introduced himself, emerged from the tapestry of traveling salesmen and hawkers to present what he claimed to be the panacea for every ailment—a miraculous elixir that could cure all. But as the townsfolk would soon discover, Dr. Lighthall's promises were as slippery as the snake oil he peddled, and the story of his sojourn in Chattanooga reveals a timeless tale of gullibility, hope, and the perennial allure of a quick fix.
From the Chattanooga Daily Commercial newspaper, Sunday, March 22, 1885.
The Diamond King Captures the City
The advent of Dr. J. I. Lighthall in Chattanooga yesterday was the signal for a demonstration seldom witnessed in this city.
Attired in garments unique and expensive, he appeared seated upon a magnificent chariot, to which was attached four handsomely comparisoned horses. A surging crowd followed in the train of the greatest of Indian Medicine Men, vociferously cheering and waving fabrics in the most enthusiastic manner.
Diamonds of extraordinary size and brilliancy ornamented every finger of his hands, and many were attached to his costly silken clothing, from which hung pendant medals and souvenirs, which were also studded with the costly gems.
With the demeanor of a Croesus, he lavishingly cast money into the throng which followed him, and apparently was pleased with the novelty of the realization of the time-worn sentence, "the mad rush for gold."
After leisurely driving about the city, the chariot containing the Diamond King was halted at Broad Street.
After calmly surveying the multitude which quickly surrounded him, he, in a clear and resonant voice, stated the object of his visit to Chattanooga, and alluded to the celebrated medicines, Spanish Oil, Herb of Life, and Consumption Cure.
After mentioning each remedy, he stated cures almost miraculous he had effected with each, and the names of persons who had been benefitted.
To fully substantiate every statement made by him, several dollars were thrown into the crowd, with instructions to telegraph to the persons named by him, and if a reply contrary to his statement was received, to present it and receive thousands of dollars.
After a learned discourse on the wonderful curative properties of the remedies, all were invited to receive treatment for any ailments with which they were afflicted.
Many stepped up to the elegant operating wagon and were relieved.
The most notable feature of the appearance of the Diamond King in public is the manner in which he extracted troublesome teeth.
With perfect ease and apparently no pain, hundreds were extracted free of charge.
Dr. Lighthall will remain in the city for several days and gladly welcome all who are suffering to present themselves at the Chariot to receive the attention and cure which he unquestionably possesses.
This Thursday, October 5, at 8:30 p.m. EST (7:30 p.m. CST), Gene Fowler (co-author of Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves, and Metro Music: Celebrating a Century of the Trinity River Groove) will be presenting a live webcast about "The Diamond King" Dr. James I. Lighthall. To find out more about the man who captured the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of Chattanooga, and so many other cities across the United States, tune in at: