Dr. Leonard K. Hirshberg brings us “The Truth About Tobacco” in the San Francisco Examiner: “I am convinced that the smoke of tobacco is less injurious to the air passages than the smoke of any other substance that burns.”
But what of the truth about Dr. Hirschberg? There is something suspicious about a man so seemingly expert on so many subjects. One day he is dabbling with hunchbacks; the next, talking monkeys; the next, seances. One can imagine his ruminations about quack remedies like colloidal silver being quoted by hucksters a century hence.
And is Dr. Hirshberg — hardly possessed of writing ability according to those who know him — truly the author of the essay which appears below his name? It seems far more likely it was ghostwritten for him by a professional writer, for example, H. L. Mencken, whose uvula the good doctor recently removed. Indeed, one hears that several years ago Mr. Mencken ghostwrote an entire book for Dr. Hirshberg, What You Ought to Know About Your Baby (1910).
Hunchbacks, talking monkeys, ghosts, ghostwriters, colloidal silver, babies, now cigarettes — what next? Possibly Dr. Hirschberg posing as a financial expert to shore up confidence in a fraudulent investment scheme improvised from a Charles Dickens novel. Time will tell the truth about Leonard Hirshberg. Still, whatever liberties Dr. Hirschberg takes with the truth, or even with the law, whatever he does, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense in his head. You never meet anybody who thinks they’re a bad person.