Healing Waters

A History of Victorian Spas


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About the Book

Modern spas are wellness resorts that offer beauty treatments, massages and complementary therapies. Victorian spas were sanitariums, providing “water cure” treatments supplemented by massage, vibration, electricity and radioactivity. Rooted in the palliative health reforms of the early 19th century, spas of the Victorian Age grew out of the hydrotherapy institutions of the 1840s—an alternative to the horrors of bleeding and purging. The regimen focused on diet, rest, cessation of alcohol and foods that upset the stomach, stress reduction and plenty of water. The treatments, though sometimes of a dubious nature, formed the transition from the primitive methods of “heroic medicine” to the era of scientifically based practices.

About the Author(s)

Jeremy Agnew, a biomedical electronics consultant, holds a Ph.D. in engineering and has been involved in the design and manufacture of medical devices for more than 30 years. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and has written several books on the Old West.

Bibliographic Details

Jeremy Agnew

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 46 photos, glossary, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7459-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3617-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Significant Dates in the Evolution of the Victorian Spa 5
One. Healing Waters 7
Two. Heroic Medicine Indeed 19
Three. Towards Gentler Treatments 30
Four. The Quest for Healthy Eating 39
Five. Water as the Universal Cure 49
Six. The Water Cure Comes to America 62
Seven. Elusive Victorian Diseases 80
Eight. Taking the Plunge 98
Nine. Bathing the Insides 111
Ten. Shocking Treatments 125
Eleven. Treatments Galore 141
Twelve. Victorian Watering Places 152
Thirteen. Springs and Spas in America 167
Fourteen. The Battle Creek San 177
Fifteen. The Cereal Battles 190
Sixteen. The Spas Transform 197
Postscript 210
Glossary: Victorian Medical Terminology 215
Appendix: Composition of Representative Mineral Springs 221
Chapter Notes 223
Bibliography 233
Index 237

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “The author describes in detail many of the spa therapies…[This book] covers so much more than just the history of Victorian spas. It encompasses everything from the beginnings of different types of hydrotherapy around the world to the introduction of patent medicines and the decline of many alternative healing modalities…. easy to read…much to learn within…many gems of unique and fun information…an enjoyable read”—Watermark