Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Professor Babboo

I continue to marvel at how open the United States was to religious and social experimentation in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The Civil War had torn the social fabric of the country apart, and the old beliefs and the old ways of doing things no longer provided, for many people, a solid foundation they could count on. During the years after the war, entire communities were often founded by groups of like-minded individuals advocating an experiemental belief system or economic system. Liberal, founded in Barton County, Missouri, as a haven for freethinkers, is a good example.
The openness to experimentation and unconventional ways of doing things, though, extended beyond social and religious matters. The field of medicine was another area where the willingness to try new things manifested itself. Witness, for example, the mineral-water craze that I've written about in previous posts. Indeed, there was a tolerance toward (some might say a gullibility toward) anybody who claimed to be able to cure you of whatever ailed you, make you rich, read your mind, or tell your fortune.
For instance, I recently ran across a series of newspaper reports that appeared in the Joplin Globe during the month of May 1899 about a palm reader who called himself Professor Babboo the Hindoo Wonder. The so-called professor set up his headquarters in a Joplin hotel charging customers $1.00 per reading and was kept so busy that he tarried in Joplin throughout the whole month of May. The Globe reported in one instance that he was "besieged all day long by an eager, anxious crowd of patrons, seeking the consolation derived from a reading of the palms of their hands by this scientific adept." The Science of Palmistry, according to Professor Babboo, was "not fortune telling but is as plain as reading a book if one is educated in the Hindoo method." The Globe reporter, who seemed to be a true believer, urged his readers to take advantage of this rare opportunity to meet with a scientific adept such as Professor Babboo.

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