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Cool Things - Yachting Jacket and Cap

John R. Brinkley by Kansas 
artist Herschel Logan

Kansas governors named John Brinkley to the head of the state's Navy for his medical operation that allegedly restored virility in male patients.  Here are his yachting jacket and cap, sporting Kansas' Great Seal.

North Carolina-born John R. Brinkley came from humble beginnings in the Great Smoky Mountains to seek his fortune. He studied medicine, although his degrees were issued by schools not recognized in most states. Brinkley chiefly was known for a surgical operation that he claimed restored lost virility in male patients by implanting goat glands.

KFKB Radio

Brinkley set up his medical practice in the Geary County town of Milford, Kansas. In addition to running a hospital there, he dispensed medical advice over his own radio station, urging the use of prescriptions that could be received across the country at Brinkley-licensed pharmacies. Listeners knew medical advice would follow when they heard the words, " Greetings to my friends in Kansas and everywhere. You are listening to Doctor J.R. Brinkley of Milford, Kansas."

KFKB (for "Kansas First, Kansas Best", or as Brinkley sometimes claimed, "Kansas Farmers Know Best") could be heard across the country. Brinkley was one of the first to understand the power of broadcasting as a promotional tool. He used the station to campaign for the governorship of Kansas in 1930, which he nearly won.

Brinkley's yachting capBroadcasting from Mexico

When claims of fraudulent practices led Brinkley to lose both his medical license and his radio station, he moved to Del Rio, Texas. Across the Rio Grande River, the Mexican government allowed him to set up a new radio station, XER.

Brinkley maintained he was just a country boy who made good, and he often came across as likeable to many people, even those opposed to his practices. The Doctor enjoyed showing off his wealth, wearing diamond jewelry and buying several cars.

Brinkley's yachting jacketKansas governors named him an Admiral in the "Kansas Navy," and on his yacht he wore a uniform illustrating that honor. The cap and the sleeves of the jacket bear the Great Seal of the State of Kansas.

Emporia Gazette editor William Allen White saw Brinkley supporters as part of "a moronic underworld" that "can be taught to read and write, but not to think, and it lives upon the level of its emotions and prejudices." A misunderstanding about the phrase "moronic underworld" led to complaints by Brinkleyites, who believed they were being called evil. The response from White: "I didn't mean that you were bad. I only meant that you were dumb."

Brinkley died in San Antonio on May 26, 1942 at the age of 56. As one biographer wrote, "He made the most money, got the most fun out of being rich, fooled the most people."

These Brinkley artifacts are in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Yachting Jacket and Cap

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1998

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.