Travis Louie, Jackalope Boss, acrylic on board, 18 x 14"

The original Jackalopes appeared in the Western United States sometime in the early 1860s. They were curious hawkers of dry goods, mining tools, and unusual artifacts. When the gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the 1870s, the Jackalopes switched to selling potions and cure-alls that promised remarkable results like cures for hair loss, attraction from the opposite sex, missing limbs, etc...They would put on elaborate shows in front of their makeshift portable storefronts that were carted from town to town. In Deadwood, South Dakota, the most famous "medicine show" had dancing grizzly bears and a fireworks display.

If patrons followed the unusual instructions that came along with their purchases, the results from the glowing bottles were like magic. However, if one didn't know how to read, there was great calamity and misfortune. Overdoses caused many problems; extreme hair growth; including hair between the toes, out of eye sockets, massive uni-brows, and some children grew beards. Those who wanted to increase their virility grew extra penises or fingers. Entire towns would experience skin color changes like purple or bright green.

Luckily, Jackalopes always had henchmen who protected them from angry mobs. They were usually very large men dressed as giant rabbits or gorillas for effect. The business was still very lucrative and it spawned many copycat potion sellers who pretended to be working for Jackalopes and sold fake potions. These men became known as "snake-oil" salesmen claiming to have elixirs and extracts from "tribal medicine men."

To starve off their false competitors, the Jackalopes all gathered and held a secret meeting where they created a syndicate of potion sellers run by a very clever "Jackalope Boss." The locals called him "Gentleman Jack" because he was always impeccably dressed with fancy leather shoes (most Jackalopes didn't wear shoes). This dapper boss organized a gang of enforcers that ran off most of the competition. Punishment for intruding on territory ranged from cutting off ears and fingers to harsher punishments like tar and feathering people with crows feathers


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