The US Government Warned Consumers Against Fake Anti-Termite Remedies Nearly A Century Ago

Termite infestations have not always been well known to people living in America. This fact has been mentioned in these blogs before. It was not until the 1930s that termites started causing infestations in homes across America. When these infestations started, Americans felt defenseless against termite invasions. According to a New York Times Article dated from May 18th of 1933, consumers were often swindled into paying large amounts of money for phony anti-termite remedies. Given the lack of termite-related knowledge among Americans at the time, con-artists easily took advantage of the consumer’s ignorance concerning termite activity. Questionable salesman would offer relief to worried homeowners by promising to save their homes from infestations with snake-oil insecticides. In fact, these rip-offs became so common that in 1932 the United States Department of Agriculture issued a warning to consumers about these “superficial remedies.”

During the early 1930s the Entomology Department at the American Museum of Natural History received frantic phone calls from Citizens seeking advice on how to prevent their homes from becoming infested with termites. Unfortunately, the officials working for the museum were not able to dispense with satisfying advice. This is due to the fact that entomologists had not yet developed reliable methods of eradicating subterranean termites. The entomologists working at the museum became concerned that worried homeowners could become victims of “unscrupulous or ignorant salesman for ineffectual insecticides.” This was a legitimate concern since such swindlers had already been reported as operating within the state of  California as well as within a few southern states.

The Bureau of Entomology had received several complaints from people who had been sold phony insecticides by termite control operators with questionable credentials. The government instead urged American citizens to consult with reliable state government authorities, such as State Departments of Agriculture, or even the Bureau of Entomology in Washington. At the time, the associate curator with the Entomology Department at the American Museum of Natural History announced to the public that anti-termite treatments would differ for each case of infestation, and no one single anti-termite remedy worked for all cases of termite infestation. By the spring of 1933, phony termite controllers had already made-off with hundreds of thousands of dollars.


If you experienced a termite infestation within your home during the early 1930s would you also feel inclined to try any anti-termite remedy available?

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