Gyles Brandreth tells the tale of one of the most influential people you've never heard of - his great great grandfather, Benjamin. It's a story that takes us from Liverpool in the 1830s to New York, with a cast of hucksters, quacks, politicians, millionaires, and medics -- not to mention the founders of tabloid journalism and mass advertising. Benjamin Brandreth set sail from Liverpool in 1835 with nothing. By the time of his death in 1887 he was a New York senator, a landowner, the owner of one of New York's biggest hotels, and one of the richest men in the country. He had invented the giant billboard, financed Gordon Bennett's yellow press and developed mass advertising. How? Brandreth's vegetable pills! They were a powerful laxative. Brandreth claimed they could cure almost anything, he spent a fortune on advertising, and people believed him.
Producer: Chris Bond.