He’s probably one of the last people one would think of when considering the World War I period–the goat gland doctor of Milford, Kansas, Dr. John R. Brinkley.  His cure for male impotence will always be one of the first things people think of, and in a more positive matter, his radio stations changed the way people listened to the radio, and introduced them to many outstanding performers.  He also gave Kansans one of their most exciting gubernatorial elections in 1930.

But for a brief time in the Summer of 1917, Dr. Brinkley was 1st Lieutenant Brinkley of the 64th Infantry, a medical officer. Brinkley would claim that he was the only doctor in the regiment, helping to process over 2000 recruits. The truth, as was often the case with Brinkley, was something less.

His entire medical service lasted two months and thirteen days, of which more than half he had reported sick. He was quickly discharged, and he went home to Milford. There the transplanting of goat glands led to his riches, his incredible practice, and a spectacular downfall, which because so much has been written about him, we’ll leave that to other sources.

But in this period, he is remembered for what may be the one moment that his medical practice was beyond reproach. Throughout the Spanish flu outbreak, he worked tirelessly to treat his patients, and reportedly lost none of them.

For more information about Dr. Brinkley, one might try Pope Brock’s Charlatan:  America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flim Flam.


Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.