Friday, November 18, 2011

Rattlesnake Pete

While hunting for something else, I found these pictures I had filed away of Rattlesnake Pete. Peter Gruber was an entrepreneur of the most eccentric sort in Rochester, NY in the late 1800's - early 1900's. Fascinated by snakes from an early age, A native of Pennsylvania, Rattlesnake Pete located his restaurant, bar, and museum in downtown Rochester after being turned away from Pittsburgh and Buffalo where mixing drinks and snakes was evidently frowned upon!
Rattlesnake Pete provided food and drink, and a large collection of snakes, 4 legged chickens, etc in the finest sideshow tradition, but in a permanent location..... our own local P.T. Barnum!
Pete's exhibit included a stuffed horse, hundreds of arrow heads, the first harpsichord in the upstate NY area, a pipe supposedly smoked by John Wilkes Booth, the battle flag used at Custer's last stand, jars of pickled brains, the weight used in the gallows mechanism from the last hanging in Rochester, the skull of General Sheridan's horse, and an ax used by a wife murderer, and much much more!
Who wouldn't want to stop by for dinner, drinks, and a chance to see cages full of writhing snakes!
He sold snake oil, as well as snake skins, skunk skins, etc. Today we know snake oil as a term for any bogus cure, but Rattlesnake Pete actually extracted oil from snakes and sold it as a cure. Below he is shown practicing his goiter cure - wrapping a black snake around the sufferer's neck. Oddly, the constrictions of the snake actually massaged the goiter, and may have provided some temporary relief.
Rattlesnake Pete was bitten by rattlesnakes or copperheads somewhere between 29 and 33 times depending on the account, but lived to the age of 75! 1857 to 1932.


Tracy welch said...

My grandfather just gifted my son with a cane of petes made from snake vertebra on thanksgivivng.he is a collector. A friend of his got it at the auctioning of petes stuff in th '30's.ty for the searching for one w/our cane in grampas friend was at the auction but could not win any items.the auctioneer sold it to him for a buck after the auction.he gave it to my gramps in 1976. My gramps just gave it to my son.its not the cane in the pics here.

Louise's Son-in-law said...

Great story! I love this internet and the stories we can share! I could not get the link to the pictures to work, so if you see this, send me another link.