Francis Tumbley was a hustler. Born into an immigrant family that sold pornographic literature to get by, he was not unaccustomed to circumnavigating the law. He earned a small fortune posing as an “Indian Herb” doctor selling cure alls throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The jury is still out whether he was known as a great physician or perceived as a quack. What is know is that his methods were often seen as queer but not illegal. He specialized in using mercury treatments and questionable surgical techniques on his patients. He sold patent medicines such as “Tumblety’s Pimple Destroyer” and “Dr. Morse’s Indian
Root Pills”, and gained a reputation for his eccentric, ostentatious clothes, which were frequently of a military nature though he was never in the armed forces.
Historians connect Francis to the Jack the Ripper murders because of his time spent in Europe. Tumbley visited Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany, and France the same time the Ripper murders took place. He was known for his distain against women, blaming his failed marriage with a prostitute on the women temperament. He was also known for showing off his preserved women reproductive organs at all male dinner parties claiming they came “from all walks of life” He was once arrested in London for “gross indecency” involving alleged homosexuality, which was illegal at the time.
Being accused as a murder was nothing new for Francis; he was a known associate of Abraham Lincoln as well as John Wilkes Booth, after running a practice in Maryland. After Lincoln’s death he was accused as an associate to Booth and charged with murder, the charges were later dropped. He then moved to Boston and served a few years selling medicine out of a home office before being accused of killing one of his patients during an “unethical experiment”
Tumbley returned to Rochester and moved in with an elderly female relative, whose house served as an office. In 1903 he died of heart disease in St Louis, and was buried in a family plot in Rochester’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery