Saturday, June 29, 2019

18C Bath or Berkeley Springs, West Virginia


The warm mineral waters of Berkeley Springs were already known throughout the colonies for their curative value when 16-year-old George Washington came in 1748 to survey the frontier region for Lord Fairfax. In those early years, visitors like Washington found conditions primitive at the most ancient watering place in the Valley of Virginia. A large hollow scooped in the sand, lined with stones and surrounded by a screen of woven brush, was the only bathing-house. There were a few private cottages and small boarding houses for visitors, but most encamped on nearby hills bringing their own servants and provision in covered wagons. Local mountain settlers provided milk, butter, eggs, fowl and wild game.

During the final half of the 18th century, the settlement around the springs grew from a little bush village to a fashionable watering spot with such riotous amusements that it was branded a seat of sin. In 1776, George Washington and his family and friends established the town of Bath and set their sights on making it the country’s first spa...
George Washington by contemporary artist Tim Campbelof Keene. New Hampshire

In addition to “taking the waters” several times a day — by cup and in baths — regular visitors for the summer season gambled at cards, raced horses in the streets and danced at twice weekly balls. Bathing facilities in these early years were used by both men and women but at separate times.

In 1784, stone pools in natural terrain were replaced by the first formal bath house. Newspapers and travelers of the time recorded three separate buildings located in Bath Square. There were five bathing-houses with dressing rooms, a large bath for swimming and a bath for poor people. Three years later, a New England man counted 172 houses, several taverns, and an assembly and tea room.

A detailed sketch of life 200 years ago at the spa was provided by French traveler, Ferdinand Bayard, who came to take the waters in the summer of 1791. After enduring four days of “abominable roads,” poor taverns and primitive meals of eggs, ham, chicken and potatoes, the 23-year-old Bayard arrived in Bath from Paris via Baltimore.

“Bath has two public buildings,” he wrote, “the theater and the bath house.” He described the bath house as “a plain and large frame structure, divided into eight small rooms made of badly joined boards where the bathers go in the morning. There is a staircase in each small room so that when the bather wishes he can gradually change the water line.”

Although Bayard reported the water tasted tepid and insipid, he praised its effects. “I saw several suffering with rheumatism who, carried at first to the baths and to the spring, walked there alone at the end of three weeks, with the aid of crutches,” he wrote.

The park area around the springs also drew comment from Bayard who identified a “grotto with benches for those who love to chat.” He noted a variety of summer amusements including young women from Virginia racing horses, boats heading downriver to Georgetown loaded with grain, gambling at faro, strolling Irish players and market-day fights with a Bruiser as referee.

Bayard lodged for the summer season with Mrs. Thorgmorton, a relative of George Washington and partner in the inn with James Rumsey seven years earlier. In 1791, Bayard was among 40 who were staying at the inn; he reported that they were “fed well” by Mrs. Throgmorton.

One of Bayard’s most entrancing vignettes centered on the social practice of five o’clock tea parties while at the springs. He described the circle of ladies, decked out in their finest, pouring from silver pots. There were “round slices of buttered bread and slices of smoked-cured meats presented to each person.” Although tea-time was silent, it was followed by entertainment. Bayard reported on the performance of a “wag, a Mr. West, who gagged rather well,” and the singing of “Miss Lee, the virtuoso of Bath.” The young songstress so impressed Bayard that he recorded the words for all four verses of her favorite song, “The Kiss.”

By the close of the 18th century, Bath was reputedly America’s premier spa, prescribed by noted physicians and visited by rich Virginia planters and merchants. Cure seekers in the mountain town were often outnumbered by gamblers, confidence men, troupes of actors, mothers seeking to marry off daughters and bachelors looking over the prospects. The powdered hair and linen shirt society may have come each summer to take the waters, but it was the partying in an unrestrained frontier spa that made their season at Bath.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

18C Boston's Commercial Oceanside Gardens with Bathing Resorts

John Adams by Contemporary artist Tim Campbell of Keene, New Hampshire

President John Adams(1735-1826) wrote, I spent my time as idle Children do in making and sailing boats and Ships upon the Ponds and Brooks, in making and flying Kites, in driving hoops, playing marbles, playing Quoits, Wrestling, Swimming, Skaiting and above all in shooting...   I soon became large enough to go on the marshes to kill wild fowl and to swim and used to beg so hard of my father and mother to let me go that they at last consented and many a cold boisterous day have I pass’d on the beach without food waiting for wild fowl to go over...

Weather in & around Boston did limit oceanside bathing as well as some indoor bathing.  Weather permitting, colonials enjoyed swimming in the Atlantic ocean. Some oceanside swimming was done from public pleasure gardens, privately owned ornamental grounds, open to the public as a resort or amusement area, and operated as a business. Up in New England, winter washing was apparently a severe trial, and bathing was sometimes unthinkable. "When the temperature of a bed-room ranges below the freezing-point, there is no inducement . . . to waste any unnecessary time in washing," admitted Charles Francis Adams II, the grandson of President John Adams son, President John Quincy Adams(1767-1848).

1789 Engraving from The Massachusetts Magazine of the shoreline by the Lighthouse

An announcement in the New England Weekly Journal of Boston, MA. September 16, 1740 gave notice that "There is now finish'd and ready for Use, a very convenient and ornamental Cold Bath, accomdated to both Sexes in the Garden at the West End of Town, that was formerly Capt. Gooh's, now in the Occumpation of William Griggs; where constant Attendance will be given for giving and receiving the Key: All Invalids whose Disorders by the Advice of their Physicians require it, my receive all the Advantages that can arise by Cold Bathing."

An advertisement in The Boston Gazette, or, Weekly Advertiser on February 26, 1754, offered to be let a House with a garden reaching 360 down to the seashore with, "a beautiful cold Bath enclose'd, which ismore or less imporved every Season, and hath been found very beneficial: the shole well-adepted for a publick Garden." 

In The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal on July 16, 1770, Sarah Dawson, widow of Joseph Dawson, Gardner, deceased, at the Cold Bath in Cambridge Stree, New Boston wished to inform "all Gentlemen and others that the Cold Bath is now in good Order, and constant Attendance will be given as usual...Also a large and commodious Garden for Gentlemen and Ladies to walk in and spend an Afternoon if they please, where they may have all Kind of Fruits and Flowers at the lowest Rate."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Evolution of the Commercial Healing Waters of Hot Springs, Arkansas

Early bathhouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas by Harper’s Weekly, 1878 


Today Hot Springs, Arkansas, located along the Ouachita River in the Central Ouachita Mountains, is the county seat of Garland County and home to the Hot Springs National Park, the oldest federal reserve in the United States. The city is named for the natural thermal water that flows from 47 springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain. These waters that flow out of the ground at 147 degrees have been popularly believed for centuries to possess medicinal properties and were a subject of legend among several Native American tribes.

Native Americans are thought to have occupied the area as early as the Paleo-Indian era in about 12,000 B.C. Archeological evidence shows that early Indians quarried stone in the area for various tools and spear points.

Other natives thought to have utilized the area were likely related to the historic Caddo Indians. Local legend speaks of the thermal springs as constituting a neutral ground in which various tribes, even those at war with each other, could co-exist in peace, at least temporarily.

The area was first explored In 1673, by Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Jolliet, who claimed the area for France. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded the land to Spain; however, in 1800 control was returned to France until the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

 In 1771, when Jean-Bernard Bossu, a French navy captain and explorer, had noted during a stay with the Quapaw Indians: “The Akanças country is visited very often by western Indians who come here to take baths,” for the hot waters “are highly esteemed by native physicians who claim that they are so strengthening.”

After The Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson sent out several expeditions to explore the new territory. One of these was the famous Louis & Clark Expedition, who explored the Pacific Northwest. Another was the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition which was tasked with exploring “the hot springs” and the “Washita” River and in present-day Arkansas and Louisiana. In December 1804, Dr. George Hunter and William Dunbar traveled up the Ouachita River where they made a four-week study of the hot springs. Though they were unable to discover the springs’ water source, they found a lone log cabin and a few rudimentary shelters used by people already visiting the springs for their healing properties.

In 1807, a Lousiana planter Emmanuel Prudhomme became the first permanent settler of what would become the village of Hot Springs, and he was soon joined by others. The site soon attracted regular visitors, as people sought the reputed beneficial effects of the thermal springs.

The accommodations at Hot Springs were not praiseworthy in the early 1800s, as noted by one visitor:  “The accommodations for using the water are so entirely deficient that it would not be wonderful if but little was affected by them. The sweat house is rudely constructed with boards, which but partially exclude the air; and the mouth of it is stopped by a blanket. The patient has to come into the open air to dry himself, hurry on his clothes and go home.”

On August 24, 1818, the Quapaw Indians ceded the land around the hot springs to the United States in a treaty. Arkansas became its own territory in 1819 and the following year, the Arkansas Territorial Legislature requested that the springs and adjoining mountains be set aside as a federal reservation. The same year, another treaty designated southwest Arkansas for Choctaw resettlement, but this was amended in 1825 to redirect the Choctaw to Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the first structure that could be considered a hotel opened in the new settlement of Hot Springs. In 1830, the first bathhouse was built by Asa Thompson, which was a primitive log structure with a wooden tub near a sweat bath. Two years later, a second log bathhouse with more tubs was built near the present-day Arlington Lawn and Superior Bathhouse.

By the early 1830s, the springs were proving to be a major attraction, and, in 1832, Congress reserved the area for federal use, exempting it from settlement and granting federal protection of the thermal waters. However, people found ways around that and construction occurred near the springs anyway.

The first bathhouses were crude structures of canvas and lumber, little more than tents perched over individual springs or reservoirs carved out of the rock. Bathhouses made of wood frame could be found in Hot Springs by the 1850s. These replaced the crude huts and were still operating well into the late 19th century. Wooden troughs carried water from the springs to a tank and the bather could then manipulate the cold and hot water by pulling a rope. Afterward, the bather went to a special vapor room (a room over a thermal spring with cracks around two inches apart in the floor to allow vapor to rise). Following the vapor, the bather received a dousing of cold water before dressing.

When the town of Hot Springs was incorporated in 1851, it was already home to two rows of hotels, along with several bathhouses and businesses. The city attracted not only seekers of leisure but also numerous invalids hoping to find relief in the mineral-laden springs...

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Thomas Jefferson at the commercial, healing Waters at Warm Springs, in Virginia


Virginia's Warm Springs is in present-day Bath County. The Warm Springs are 5 miles from Hot Springs located in the aptly named Bath County of Virginia. Legend has it that before Virginia was a colony, a young Native American happened on the spring when he was weary and dispirited. Coming upon the narrow valley filled with water, he first tasted, and then plunged into, the warm waters. Refreshed and invigorated, he continued his trek the next day successfully reaching his destination. Whether this tale is true is debatable, but the waters were used both for bathing and therapy in the later part of the eighteenth century. In the western area of Virginia, Warm Springs and Sweet Springs were the first 2 Virginia springs to be visited by colonial settlers.

Apparently Thomas Jefferson's daughter was one of the first members of the family to visit Warm Springs. On July 31st, 1795 Jefferson wrote his daughter, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, “We have no letter from you since your arrival at the Warm-springs, but are told you are gone on to the sweet springs.”  Presumably Martha’s spring visits had happier results than her father’s later visits.

Thomas Jefferson was at Warm Springs in August 1817 and saw the need for a resident physician to attend those seeking healing at the various springs. He wrote, “it would be money well bestowed could the public employ a well educated and experienced physician to attend at each of the medicinal springs, to observe, record, and publish the cases which recieve benefit, those recieving none, and those rendered worse by the use of their respective waters.” “… tried once to-day the delicious bath and shall do it twice a day hereafter … but little gay company here at this time, and I rather expect to pass a dull time.”

Jefferson would visit again the following year.  He was a member of the Rockfish Gap Commission, appointed by the Governor of Virginia and charged with recommending a site for a state university. The commission members gathered at the Mountain House, a resort inn at Rockfish Gap, for a three-day meeting that began on August 1, 1818. After attending the meeting, Jefferson traveled on horseback with James Breckenridge to Warm Springs in Bath County, Virginia, where they arrived on August 8.

It seems that Jefferson went to the springs hoping to find relief from rheumatism, a disease characterized by inflammation and pain of the joints. What was meant to be a short stay was extended to three weeks, with Jefferson visiting various local springs, taking the waters, and sightseeing. Initially, he found the excursion pleasant and beneficial. Gradually, however, he became bored and, ultimately, he broke out in boils on his buttocks, which made sitting excruciatingly painful. The boils may have been a staphylococcus infection, accompanied by a fever.

When Thomas Jefferson revisited Warm Springs in 1818, his initial assessment of the effect of the spring water was positive but his visit led to near-disastrous results. On August 4, he wrote his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, “Every body tells me the time I allot to the Springs is too short. That 2. or 3. weeks bathing will be essential. I shall know better when I get there.” 

"An attack of rheumatism in the knee yesterday, without retarding my journey, affects my walking. I have tried once to-day the delicious bath and shall do it twice a day hereafter. The company here is about 45. The table is very well kept by Mr. Fry, and every thing else well. ... but little gay company here at this time, and I rather expect to pass a dull time." 1818 August 7. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph).

"... having been now here a week and continued to bathe 3 times a day, quarter of an hour at a time. I continue well, as I was when I came. Having no symptom to judge by at that time I presume the seeds of my rheumatism eradicated, and desirous to prevent the necessity of ever coming here a 2d time, I believe I shall yield to the general advice of a three week course. So dull a place, and so distressing an ennui I never before knew. I have visited the rock on the high mountain, the hot springs, and yesterday the falling spring, 15. miles from here; so that there remains no other excursion: to enliven the two remaining weeks. ... I believe in fact that the spring with the Hot and Warm are those of the first merit. The sweet springs retain esteem, but in limited cases." 1818 August 14. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph).

"I do not know what may be the effect of this course of bathing on my constitution; but I am under great threats that it will work it's effect thro' a system of boils. A large swelling on my seat, increasing for several days past in size and hardness disables me from sitting but on the corner of a chair. Another swelling begins to manifest itself to-day on the other seat."  1818 August 21. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph).

"I am lately returned from the warm springs with my health entirely prostrated by the use of the waters. They produced an imposthume and eruptions which with the torment of the journey back reduced me to the last stage of weakness and exhaustion. I am getting better, but still obliged to lie night and day in the same reclined posture which renders writing painful."  1818 September 11. (Jefferson to Francis Wayles Eppes).

Jefferson’s letter of September 12, 1818 to Dr. Thomas Cooper stated that he had returned from the Warm Springs several days earlier though not in the condition he had hoped but instead “in prostrated health, from the use of the waters. Their effect, and the journey back reduced me to the last stage of exhaustion; but I am recovering.” He explained his brevity in writing as a result of not being able to sit erect due to pain.

On October 6, 1818, Jefferson wrote to Colonel William Alston who must have provided some “gay company” to Jefferson during his visit to the springs as he was sending Alston wine and hoping for him to visit Monticello. He tells the colonel, “I became seriously affected afterwards by the continuance of the use of the waters. They produced imposthume [abscess], eruption, with fever, colliquative [profuse] sweats and extreme debility. These sufferings, aggravated by the torment of long & rough roads, reduced me to the lowest stage of exhaustion by the time I got home. I have been on the recovery some time, & still am so; but not yet able to sit erect for writing.”

On December 27, 1818, Jefferson wrote John Jackson that he appreciated the kind interest Jackson had concerning Jefferson’s health and claimed, “my trial of the Warm springs was certainly ill advised. for I went to them in perfect health, and ought to have reflected that remedies of their potency must have effect some way or other. if they find disease they remove it; if none, they make it. altho’ I was reduced very low, I may be said to have been rather on the road to danger, than in actual danger.”

NOTE
Martha Jefferson Randolph image from Rufus W. Griswold, The Republican Court, or, American Society in the Days of Washington. New and rev. ed. (New York, 1856), plate opposite 219. First ed., 1855.

Martha (“Patsy”) Jefferson(1772-1836) was born at Monticello in Albemarle County, Virginia, one of the 6 children of Thomas & Martha Wayles Jefferson.  When Patsy was 10 years old her mother died, & over the following years she became increasingly close to her father. In 1784, Patsy accompanied her father to Paris, where she attended the Abbaye Royale de Panthémont convent school.  Later that year Patsy returned to Virginia with her father & came to marry her 2nd cousin, Thomas Mann Randolph (1768-1828). They had 11 children. When her father became President, Jefferson sought to establish a presidential culture that more resembled life on Virginia plantation abolishing the elegant “levee” receptions of the presidencies of Washington & Adams. Patsy served as hostess for her father on numerous social occasions during his presidency, & worked to implement her father’s more egalitarian style by calling first on socially prominent women new to the capital instead of expecting them to call upon her.  After her father retired from public life, she moved into Monticello with him, where she continued to preside as mistress of the house, even while her husband served as governor of Virginia.  She was forced to sell Monticello after her father’s death in 1826, and died 10 years later at the age of 64.

Friday, June 21, 2019

George Washington at Warm Springs, now called Bath or Berkeley Springs, in Morgan County, W.V.

George Washington by contemporary artist Tim Campbell

For centuries, people visited the Berkeley Springs area in the northeast corner of what is now West Virginia, to enjoy the health benefits of the warm mineral waters that flow from local springs at a constant temperature of 74.3°F. Reportedly Native Americans from as far away as Canada, the Great Lakes, & the Carolinas traveled to bathe there.

In the mid 1700s, George Washington, who first visited at age 16, was a regular visitor and spread word of the waters, helping establish Berkeley Springs' reputation as a health resort throughout the American colonies.  One of the earliest sources showing an appreciation of mineral waters for bathing in the new world is a 1748 reference in George Washington’s diary to the “fam’d Warm Springs.” At that time only open ground surrounded the springs which were located within a dense forest.

Before the Revolution raged, General George Washington found time to share in the development of Berkeley Springs. Here, where mineral springs still maintain a flow of 1500 gallons a minute at 74 drgrees must have been unaware-or simply not interested-that, late in the 18C, itinerant evangelists denounced the place as a "Seat of Sin" for its horse racing, gambling, and other ungodly revelries.

Here rude log huts, board and canvas tents, and even covered wagons, served as lodging rooms, while every party brought its own substantial provisions of flour, meat and bacon, depending for lighter articles of diet on the local “Hill folk,” or the success of their own foragers.

A large hollow scooped in the sand, surrounded by a screen of pine brush, was the only bathing-house; and this was used alternately by ladies and gentlemen. The time set apart for the ladies was announced by a blast on a long tin horn, at which signal all of the opposite sex retired to a prescribed distance, ... Here day and night passed in a round of eating and drinking, bathing, fiddling, dancing, and reveling. Gaming was carried to a great excess and horse-racing was a daily amusement.

George Washington, a 16-year-old apprentice surveyor, describes Warm Springs, now called Bath or Berkeley Springs, in Morgan County, W.V. in A Journal of my Journey over the Mountains. [March 1748] ;Fryday 18th. We Travell’d up about 35 Miles to Thomas Barwicks on Potomack where we found the River so excessively high by Reason of the Great Rains that had fallen up about the Allegany Mountains as they told us which was then bringing down the melted Snow & that it would not be fordable for severall Days it was then above Six foot Higher than usual & was Rising. We agreed to stay till Monday. We this day call’d to see the Fam’d Warm Springs. We camped out in the field this Night.
Martha Washington by contemporary artist Tim Campbell

In 1761, Washington was in Winchester until after the election on 18 May and apparently returned to Mount Vernon ill. Martha Washington wrote Margaret Green on 26 June, “Mr W—n took his vomit—but it did not worke him well to-day he has began with the Bark and continues it till an ounce is taken.;" In late August, he went to the Warm Springs in Frederick County, and in a stay of several weeks his health improved, though he had a relapse in October and November.

A letter from George Washington to Charles Green, 26–30 August 1761 On Warm Springs [Va.]
Revd Sir
I shoud think myself very inexcusable were I to omit so good an oppertunity as Mr Douglass’s return from these Springs, of giving you some Account of the place, and of Our Approaches to it.1

To begin then—We arrivd here yesterday, and our Journey (as you may imagine) was not of the most agreable sort, through such Weather & such Roads as we had to encounter; these last for 20 or 25 Miles from hence are almost impassable for Carriages; not so much from the Mountainous Country (but this in fact is very rugged) as from Trees that have fallen across the Road, and renderd the ways intolerable.

We found of both sexes about 2⟨5⟩0 People at this place, full of all manner of diseases & Complaints; some of which are much benefitted, while others find no relief from the Water’s—two or three Doctors are here, but whether attending as Physicians or to Drink of the Waters I know not—It is thought the Springs will soon begin to loose there Virtues, and the Weather get too cold for People, not well provided, to remain here—They are situated very badly on the East side of a steep Mountain, and Inclosed by Hills on all Sides, so that the Afternoon’s Sun is hid by 4 Oclock and the Fogs hang over us till 9 or 10 wch occasion’s great Damps and the Mornings and Evenings to be cool.

The Place I am told, and indeed have found it so already, is supplyed with Provisions of all kinds—good Beef & venison, fine Veal, Lamb, Fowls &ca may be bought at almost any time; but Lodgings can be had on no Terms but building for them, and I am of opinion that numbers get more hurt by there manner of lying, than the Waters can do them good—had we not succeeded in getting a Tent & marquee from Winchester we shoud have been in a most miserable situation here.

In regard to myself I must beg leave to say, that I was much overcome with the fatigue of the Ride & Weather together—however I think my Fevers are a good deal abated, althô my Pains grow rather worse, & my sleep equally disturbd; what effect the Waters may have upon me I cant say at present, but I expect Nothing from the Air—this certainly must be unwholesome—I purpose to stay here a fortnight & longer if benefitted.

I shall attempt to give you the best discription I can of the Stages to this place, that you may be at no loss, if after this Acct, you choose to come up. Toulston I shoud recommend as the first, Majr Hamilton’s, or Israel Thompson’s the 2d; the one abt 30, the other 35 Miles distant; from thence you may reach Henry Vanmeter’s on Opeckon Creek, or Captn Paris’s 4 Miles on this Side, which will be also abt 35 Miles; and then your Journey will be easy the following day to this place.2

I have made out a very long, and a very dirty Letter, but my hurry must apologize for the Latter &, I hope your goodness will excuse the former—please to make my Complimts acceptable to Mrs Gr⟨ee⟩n and Miss Bolan, & be assurd Revd Sir that with a true respect I remain yr Most Obedt & Obligd

Go: Washington
P.S. If I coud be upon any certainty of yr comg, or, coud g⟨et⟩ only 4 days previous notice of yr arrival I woud get a House built such as are here erected very indifferent indeed they are thô for yr receptn.

30th Augt
Since writing the above Mr Douglass lost his Horses & was dataind, but I met with a Fairfax Man returng home, who is to be back again immediately for his wife. this Person I have hird to carry some Letters to Mrs Washn undr whose cover this goes; by him you are furnish⟨ed⟩ with an oppertunity of honouring me with yr Commands, if you retain any thoughts of comg to this place—I think myself benefitted by the Water’s, and am not witht hopes of their making a cure of me—a little time will shew no⟨w⟩.

Another Washington journal entry for July 31, 1769, records his departure with Mrs. Washington for these springs in West Virginia, where they stayed more than a month. They were accompanied by her daughter, Patsy Custis, who was probably taken in hope of curing a form of epilepsy with which she was afflicted.

In 1775, George Washington took command of New England troops who had been fighting the American Revolution's opening battles and now surrounded Boston to keep the British cooped up there. The newly named American commander found his army an unruly gathering of restless young men in generally filthy and unhealthy camps. He wrote many letters to Congress about the need to change this situation before disease struck and, in one, approved of his men bathing in the Charles River. But, when it came to their "running about naked upon the Bridge, whilst . . . Ladies of the first fashion in the neighborhood, are passing over it," the general put his foot down.

Washington was certain that troops needed washing whenever the chance for it came. "While you halt," he wrote in orders to a colonel under his command, "you will take every measure for refreshing your Men and rendering them as comfortable as you can. Bathing themselves moderately and washing their Cloathes are of infinite Service."

But apparently more than bathing in the medicinal waters was happening at Warm Springs. New England school teacher tutoring in 18C Virginia & keeping a journal, Philip Vickers Fithian wrote of his visit to the springs in 1775, “In our dining Room Companies at Cards, Five & forty, Whist, Alfours, Callico-Betty &c. I walked out among the Bushes here also was—Amusements in all Shapes, & in high Degrees, are constantly taking Place among so promiscuous Company.”  In 1776, America’s first Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury, stated that he was horrified by Bath’s “overflowing tide of immorality.” After the Revolution in the latter part of the 18C, hundreds of visitors annually flocked to these springs. Although the accommodations were a little less primitive, the cleanliness & therapeutic aims for visiting these waters were very quickly combined with a growing social life surrounding the springs on dry land.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pennsylvania's Public Baths - Gardens, Rooms, & Food

Rev. Henry Muhlenberg (1711-87) reported that large crowds of men & boys stripped naked splashing and paddling in the Delaware River at Philadelphia. Among early American settlers, William Penn's Quakers espoused healthy habits of exercise and hygiene. Told that vigorous activity for children "fits them to bear the roughest Providences,"  Quakers quickly took to swimming and bathing. One, Elizabeth Drinker, had a shower put up, tried it, and noted, "I bore it better than I expected, not having been wett all over at once, for 28 years past." 

Lawrence Wright's book Clean And Decent tells of William Penn's butler, presumably a Quaker, who was not only deaf but plagued with various pains. "He leaped from his bed on a cold night, threw off his night shirt, jumped into cold water, ran naked round the garden, into the water again, twice more round the garden; then, taking 'a good swigg o brandy', back to bed-and needless to say had recovered both health and hearing by the morning."

Philadelphia boasted several public gardens featuring bathing & swimming. A proposal for publicly financed baths created a controversy on August 20, 1761, when The Pennsylvania Gazette reported that a committee of religious leaders in Philadelphia wrote a letter to the governor. "It hath been with the greatest Concern, for some Years past, that we have observed, among our Fellow Citizens, an immoderate and growing Fondness for Pleasure, Luxury, Gaming, Dissipation, and their concomitant Vices. The Impropriety as well as Ingratitude of such a Conduct, is too remarkable to be passed over... Last Winter, we heard of high Scenes of public Gaming, added to and mixed with the usual Diversions of the Season. And yet, not content with these, our Projectors of Pleasure, our Leaders in Modes and Fashions, as if they were afraid to leave themselves or their Followers one Moment for Business, or sober Conversation, or serious Reflection upon what they were sent for into this World, have set on Foot a Scheme for filling up the Summer Season also with the like Scenes of Dissipation, Idleness and Excess. The Scheme we mean (as far as it is yet avowed by them) is a large Subscription Lottery, for erecting public Gardens, with Baths or Bagnios, among us. How destructive such Places of public Rendezvous are to the Morals of a People, what they usually terminate in, and how ill suited they are to the Circumstances of this young City, and the former Character of its Inhabitants, we need not mention to your Honour...Were a hot and cold Bath necessary for the health of the Inhabitants of this City, they might at a small Expence be added to the Hospital, put under the sober Government of that Place, and kept separate from those used by the Patients; and as to a publick Place of Walking, the State House Green or Garden , by a Law of the Province, is already set apart for that Use. --- But much more than this lurks under this Scheme, and will certainly attend its Accomplishment. We well know that Gaming Tables, a House of Entertainment, Places of Drinking, and the like, make a Part of public Gardens."

Apparently, the popularity of public baths was not squashed in the Quaker city.  In 1765, John White advertised his New Bath in Northern Philadelphia, to "Accomodate Ladies and Gentlemen with Breakfasting, on the best of Tea, Coffee. amd Chocolate, with plenty of GOOD CREAM...He likewise hopes to give Satisfaction to any Person whose Health may require their going to the Bath, by his Attention and by furnishing them with Brushes and proper Towels." 

One of the mineral springs in Pennsylvania attracted from 100 to 500 guests daily in the summer season.  The public bath, Yellow Springs in Chester County, Pennsylvania, was put up for auction in March of 1770 as advertised in the The Pennsylvania Gazette.  "A VALUABLE plantation...well known by the name of the Yellow Springs, situate in Pikeland township, Chester county, about 30 miles from Philadelphia, containing 150 acres, one half or more cleared, the other well timbered, and the whole well watered, by never failing streams...having thereon erected a good stone dwelling house, 2 stories high, 57 feet front, and 36 in depth, a fine piazza in the front, the whole breadth of the house, 8 or 9 feet wide, good cellars and chambers, kitchen barn, stables, and other out houses...The medicinal virtues of the springs, on the above plantation, for the cure of many disorders inwardly and outwardly, are so well known to the public, that it is thought unnecessary to mention them here. There are three bathing springs, which can be emptied or filled in a very little time, by opening or shutting a sluice; two of them are inclosed by good new frame houses, 35 feet front, and 16 feet deep. Each bath has a drawing room, and one a fireplace in it; the buildings are neat, and make an elegant appearance, having glass windows front and back, and walks, with rows of shady trees, up to the dwelling house...The dwelling house, on said plantation, is now used as a public house, and is so well accustomed as to have from 100 to 500 people daily, for the summer season, besides the unhealthy and infirm that come from all parts, and take lodgings for weeks together, for the benefit of the waters."  

In 1774, Dr. Samuel Kennedy offered to rent Yellow Springs, which he had apparently purchased 4 years before, noting, "The Baths and other outhouses are in good repair...from four to six hundred persons have convened there in one day in the summer season."

The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser on February 20, 1790 offered to be let, "The Wigwam Tavern...on the banks of the Schuylkill...with a shower and two plungings Bath...and 7 summer houses."  And within the year, John Coyle opened his commercial garden on the Schuykill River in 1791. Coyle's Wigwam Garden featured a good restaurant with excellent coffee, a bowling green, and public baths.

In 1795, public garden owner George Esterly announced Philadelphia's Harrowgate Spring, "In the house erected over the Harrowgate waters are two shower baths and two dressing rooms and at the Chalybeate spring, is a convenient bath for plunging and swimming...The garden is in excellent order...He is determined to keep the best of liquors of all kinds. Breakfasts, dinners, teas, coffee and fruits of all kinds may be had at the shortest notice, and also excellent accomodations for boardings and lodgings."

The Bristol Baths, twenty miles north of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, were advertised for sale in 1807 with, "plunging showers and warm baths." When the property was put up for sale again in 1811, the advertisement described, a "Mansion 112 by 33 feet; 30 lodging rooms; 12 ft piazza in front of the whole; 2 kitchens; bar room and stabling for 100 horses...ballroom 45 by 18 feet, a billiard room, mineral baths, warm baths, pump room...40 acres."

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Development of Commercial Baths in Early America - Cold Waters, Seaside Bathing, & Hot Springs

Cold Waters, Seaside Bathing, & Hot Springs

Public gardens in early America often presented a variety of bathing & swimming arrangements to their clientele. The medicinal benefits of hot mineral springs & cold baths were touted in the British American colonies throughout the period.  On the other side of the Atlantic, educated English writers touted the potential benefits, & in the New World, Native Americans had been visiting mineral springs near the Atlantic coast for centuries. Often practical 18C gentlemen just swam in rivers near their homes.
Apparently hot, herbal baths were popular early 

Often practical 18C gentlemen just swam in rivers near their homes.  Virginian William Byrd II (1674-17440) noted in his diary (between thoughts on romancing the ladies & punishing the slaves) swimming in the James River to "help restore Our Vigour" and of learning the crawl swimming stroke from Indians who joined him there.

In his journal, this early eighteenth-century gentleman-scholar, owner of beautiful Westover, recorded his frequent swims in the James River, often accompanied by a generally leary house guest.

Byrd often took his dips to cure any sort of attack on his health. He notes that a swim always left him feeling fine. He even braved the river in winter "without being discouraged by frost or Snow," according to a 1706 letter, and said that "If People would be persuaded to this, t'would save a world of Jesuits bark and Starve all our Doctors." The bark was a medicine for malaria.

On June 15, 1711, Byrd wrote, “I took a walk about the plantation and then swam in the river "to wash and refresh myself.” 

On a trip to North Carolina in 1733, Byrd recorded for September 30th that: This being Sunday, we were glad to rest from our labors; and, to help restore our vigor, several of us plunged into the river, notwithstanding it was a frosty morning. One of our Indians went in along with us and taught us their way of swimming. They strike not out both hands together but alternately one after another, whereby they are able to swim both farther and faster than we do." The stroke the Indians employed as described by Byrd seems to be a crawl or perhaps a dog paddle. Byrd seems unfamiliar with that style, usually using what seems to be a breaststroke.


In 1773, a commercial combination of mineral spring & seaside spa advertised from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, "The Convenient BATH...is put into every good Order, for the Reception of such as incline to bathe in Sea Water...The Mineral Spring is also in good Order...Genteel lodgings to be had in private Families."

Bathing and swimming were popular profit-making enterprises up and down the Atlantic Coast. Henry Wansey visited Long Island in 1794, and noted, "A Mr. Bailey, of New York, has just built a very handsome tea-drinking pleasure house, to accommodate parties who come hither from all the neighbouring ports; he intends also to have bathing machines, and several species of entertainment."
Advertisements for mineral springs usually contained claims for improvement of health in addition to the more obvious social enticements.  In 1811, the owner claimed that the waters at Chalybeate Springs in Virginia, "have been inspected by a number of medical gentlemen, both of the city and country, and are admitted to be equal if not superior in their medical and healing qualities to any of the kind ever discovered in America, or perhaps in the world. Liquors of the best kind will be provided and entertainment as good as the country and the season will permit."

Saturday, June 15, 2019

From Sacred Indian Healing Retreats to Commercial European-Style Enterprises

The Indians of the Americas in the New World considered hot springs as sacred places and believed in the healing powers of the heat and mineral waters. Montezuma(1466-1520) the great Aztec leader, spent time at a spa, Aqua Hedionda, to temporarily recuperate from his strenuous responsibilities. That resort was later developed into a fashionable commercial spa by the invading and conquering Spaniards (Salgado-Pareja, 1988).

North American Indians have a long history of association with and use of hot springs at geothermal sites, going back at least 10,000 years. The time of the first human incursions into North American are subject to debate; however, it is generally accepted that it is associated with the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, called Beringia.  The majority of hot springs do exist in western North America, which became home to these early inhabitants. Hot springs can be found across the North American continent, and expanding communities of Native Americans relied on their benefits and cherished them.

NOOA's National Centers for Environmental Information compiled a list of 1,661 US Hot Springs in 1980. Geothermal energy is heat derived from Earth's interior. Hot springs are loosely defined as a spring with a water temperature at or above the human body temperature of 98.6 degrees.  Warm springs have water temperatures below the human body temperature.  NOAA, however, has defined thermal springs as  springs with water temperature at or above 68 degrees.

The Indians dominated North America, until they were essentially replaced by the European immigrants in the east around the early 1700's and in the west around the middle 1800's. Many of these hot springs and geysers were sacred places for the Native Americans, who had a special respect and understanding of the natural environment. Unfortunately, much of the oral history and legends concerning geothermal activities have been lost. We are dependent today upon archaeological evidence, oral histories, and speculation.

The Indians of North America considered hot springs as a sacred place where the "Great Spirit" lived, and were believers in the miraculous healing powers of the heat and mineral waters. These areas were also considered neutral ground; where warriors could travel to and rest unmolested by other tribes.  Here they would recuperate from battle. In many cases, they jealously guarded the spring and kept its existence a secret from the arriving Europeans for as long as possible. Battles were sometimes fought between Indians and settlers to preserve these rights. Even though archeological finds date Native American presence at hot springs for over 10,000 years, there is no recorded history prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the 1500's. Many legends concerning hot springs are part of the Native American oral history.
Hot Springs, Arkansas Bathhouses, 1888

With the discovery of these geothermal phenomena by the colonizing Europeans, the "ownership" and use changed considerably, with many becoming commercial operations. The use of hot springs has evolved in North America: from use by Indians as a sacred place, to the early European settlers attempting to emulate the spas of Europe for commercial gain. The early European settlers in the 1700 and 1800's, found and used these natural hot springs and later realizing their commercial value, developed many into spas after the tradition in Europe. Many individual developments in the eastern United States were successful such as at Saratoga Springs, New York; White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Hot Springs, Virginia; Warm Spring, Georgia; and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

See: John W. Lund. Historical Impacts of Geothermal Resources on the People of North America in Oregon Institute of Technology's Geo-Heat Center Quarterly Bulletin, October, 1995

Aikens, C. Melvin (1978). The Far West. In: Ancient Native Americans, Jesse D. Jennings (Ed). W.H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco. pp. 131-182.

Bedinger, M. S. (1988). Valley of the Vapors - Hot Springs National Park. Eastern National Park and Monument Association, Philadelphia, PA. 39pp.

Breckenridge, Roy M. and Hinckley, Bern S. (1978). Thermal Springs of Wyoming. The Geological Survey of Wyoming, Bulletin 60, Laramie, Wy. 104pp.

Dumond, Don E. (1978). Alaska and the Northwest Coast. In: Ancient Native Americans, Jesse D. Jennings (Ed). W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco. pp.43-94.

Fagan, Brian M. (1985). People of the Earth. Little, Brown and Co., Boston. 545pp.

Griffin, James R. (1978). The Midlands and Northeastern United States. In: Ancient Native Americans, Jesse D Jennings (Ed). W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco. pp. 221-280.

Harris, Stephen L. (1990). Agents of Chaos. Montana Press Publishing Co., Missoula, MT. 260 pp.

Jennings, Jesse D. (1978). Origins. In: Ancient Native Americans, Jesse D Jennings (Ed). W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco. pp. 1-42.

Lipe, William D. (1978). The Southwest. In: Ancient Native Americans, Jesse D. Jennings (Ed). W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco. pp. 327-402.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Evolution of Commercial, Public Baths in Europe

1400s Leukerbad Open-Air Bath

People across the globe have used geothermal hot springs and mineral waters for bathing and for improving their health for many thousand of years. Based on archaeological finds in Asia, mineral water has been used for bathing there since the Bronze Age, about 5000 years ago. 

One of the first accounts of bathing in mineral springs as a healing  process rather than a simple hygiene ritual was written by ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who was active between 460 and 370 B.C. Hippocrates proposed that the cause of all ailments was an imbalance of bodily fluids, and advocated that: “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.”  One of the oldest Greek archaeological sites, Olympia, was home to several hot baths constructed over a period of nearly 500 years (470 BCE–600 CE). The Leonidaion, Kladeos, and Kronios baths included intricate mosaic floors, opulent marble revetments, hot and cold pools, atriums, and even private baths.

Many hot springs have been used in connection with religious rites in Egypt and by the Jews of the Middle East. Ritual bathing is part of ancient Jewish culture. Ritual cleansing baths (mikvot) from the classical period have been found in archaeological digs at multiple sites, including Masada.  Situated between two volcanic belts, Japan offers countless natural thermal baths. Their tradition of public bathing dates back at least to A.D. 552 and to the dawn of Buddhism, which taught that such hygiene not only purified the body of sin but also brought luck. 

In early recorded history, the primary use of curative baths was noted to heal the wounds of Roman soldiers during the reign of Caesar Augustus from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. Asclepiades, a Greek physician who worked in Rome, prescribed hydrotherapy for both therapeutic and preventative purposes. There were others that attributed healing and health to taking the waters such as Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) and Galen (131-201 AD). 

At this time, there were approximately 170 baths in Rome, but by 43 A.D. citizens of Rome began to view baths as form of rest and relaxation for all. Starting in 33 BCE, and throughout the the reign of Augustus (31 BCE–14 CE), Rome boasted approximately 170 public baths. By the onset of the 5C, that number grew to 856, as citizens of Rome began to view baths as a way of providing rest, relaxation, and solace to all people, not just those weary from war. Rome produced 3 types of baths. Baths at home (balnea), private baths (balnea privata), and state funded public baths (balnea publica). The aqueducts provided enough water, not hot, so that every person in Rome could use 1400 liters per day. At the height of the Roman bathing culture these public bathing facilities grew into huge complexes with the capacity for thousands of people.

In 70 CE, while occupying England, the Romans built a spa around the hot springs at Bath, the first of its kind known in Britain; and they erected a temple nearby to honor the goddess Minerva. The Romans also built hot baths in their European colonies such as Vichy, France, and Aachen, Germany. The baths were an integral part of social life for the residents of those Roman communities, and many of them remained even after the cities were no longer part of the Roman empire. 

Speculation exists as to where the term spa originated.  One theory is that spa in Latin is an acronym of “salus per aquae” meaning “health from water.” Others theorize that the term spa comes from a small Belgian village called Espa (or fountain) where hot mineral springs containing iron-bearing waters were used by Roman soldiers to treat aching muscles and wounds from a battle. In 1326, Collin le Loup, an ironmaster from Liège, Belgium, discovered the chalybeate springs in Espa, and promoted around these springs, where a famous health resort eventually grew as the term “spa” came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs. Whatever the origin, the oldest Roman spa still in existence today can be found in Merano, Italy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Benjamin Franklin Promotes the New Swimming Craze

Ben Franklin by Contemporary artist Tim Campbell of Keene, New Hampshire

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote about both the art & utility of swimming. He was an accomplished & enthusiastic swimmer, having first taught himself by paddling around as a young boy, and perfecting his strokes by reading an illustrated treatise called “The Art of swimming ... with advice for bathing.”  According to his autobiography, Franklin later improved his technique by studying a French translation of Digby’s De arte natandi.

In 1724 the 18-year-old Franklin moved to London to work as a typesetter. While working in London, Franklin showed off his swimming skills to friends. After he had succeeded in teaching two friends to swim, Franklin considered setting up a swimming school in London, thinking that he could make his fortune in a city with so many non-swimmers. Sir William Wyndham had approached Franklin to ask him to teach his sons to swim. Franklin recalled in his Autobiography that, “From this Incident I thought it likely, that if I were to remain in England and open a Swimming School, I might get a good Deal of Money. And it struck me so strongly, that had the Overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America.”
Illustration from De Arte Natandi, Everard Digby, 1587

Franklin returned to Philadelphia, but in 1726, before he left London, he gave one final demonstration of his swimming skills to several friends with whom he traveled by boat to Chelsea. Needing little encouragement, Franklin: "stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfryar's, performing on the way many feats of activity, both upon and under water, that surpris'd and pleas'd those to whom they were novelties."

In his 1726 Journal of a Voyage at the Library of Congress, Franklin describes of having 2nd thoughts on going for a swim on Wednesday, September 21, 1726. It has been perfectly calm all this day, and very hot. I was determined to wash myself in the sea to-day, and should have done so had not the appearance of a shark, that mortal enemy to swimmers, deterred me: he seemed to be about five feet long, moves round the ship at some distance in a slow majestic manner..."

John Locke, wrote in the 1693 Some Thoughts concerning Education, that every child should be taught to swim when old enough to learn and had someone to teach him. He said: ’Tis that saves many a man’s life: and the Romans thought it so necessary that they ranked it with letters, and was the common phrase to mark one ill educated and good for nothing that he had neither learned to read nor to swim. . . . But besides the gaining a skill which may serve him at need, the advantages to health, by often bathing in cold water during the heat of summer, are so many that I think nothing need to be said to encourage it, provided this one caution be used that he never go into the water when exercise has at all warmed him or left any emotion in his blood or pulse.

Franklin agreed with with the implementation of the educational reforms proposed by Enlightenment thinkers John Locke (1632-1702) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) to include play and physical exercise to create a healthier and more balanced, child-centred curriculum.  Expanding on Locke's philosophy, in 1749, Benjamin Franklin wrote Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania. Philadelphia: Printed in the Year 1749 (Yale University Library)
That to keep them in Health, and to strengthen and render active their Bodies, they be frequently exercis’d* in Running, Leaping, Wrestling, and Swimming...

’Tis suppos’d that every Parent would be glad to have their Children skill’d in Swimming, if it might be learnt in a Place chosen for its Safety, and under the Eye of a careful Person. Mr. Locke says, p. 9. in his Treatise of Education; “’Tis that saves many a Man’s Life; and the Romans thought it so necessary, that they rank’d it with Letters; and it was the common Phrase to mark one ill educated, and good for nothing, that he had neither learnt to read nor to swim; Nec Literas didicit nec Natare. But besides the gaining a Skill which may serve him at Need, the Advantages to Health by often Bathing in cold Water during the Heat of the Summer, are so many, that I think nothing need be said to encourage it.”

’Tis some Advantage besides, to be free from the slavish Terrors many of those feel who cannot swim, when they are oblig’d to be on the Water even in crossing a Ferry.

Mr. Hutchinson [i.e., Fordyce], in his Dialogues concerning Education, 2 Vols. Octavo, lately publish’d, says, Vol. 2. p. 297. “I would have the Youth accustomed to such Exercises as will harden their Constitution, as Riding, Running, Swimming, Shooting, and the like.”

Franklin, an inveterate inventor, also fashioned swimming paddles for his hands & feet to help him swim faster. Unfortunately, his paddles were made out of wood & were too heavy to aid his swimming. He also floated in the water while holding onto a kite, hoping the wind power from the kite would pull him across the water.

From Benjamin Franklin to Oliver Neave, before 1769]  Printed from Benjamin Franklin, Experiments and Observations on Electricity … (4th edition, London, 1769), pp. 463–8
Dear Sir,
I Cannot be of opinion with you that ’tis too late in life for you to learn to swim. The river near the bottom of your garden affords you a most convenient place for the purpose. And as your new employment requires your being often on the water, of which you have such a dread, I think you would do well to make the trial; nothing being so likely to remove those apprehensions as the consciousness of an ability to swim to the shore, in case of an accident, or of supporting yourself in the water till a boat could come to take you up.

I do not know how far corks or bladders may be useful in learning to swim, having never seen much trial of them. Possibly they may be of service in supporting the body while you are learning what is called the stroke, or that manner of drawing in and striking out the hands and feet that is necessary to produce progressive motion. But you will be no swimmer till you can place some confidence in the power of the water to support you; I would therefore advise the acquiring that confidence in the first place; especially as I have known several who by a little of the practice necessary for that purpose, have insensibly acquired the stroke, taught as it were by nature.

The practice I mean is this. Chusing a place where the water deepens gradually, walk coolly into it till it is up to your breast, then turn round, your face to the shore, and throw an egg into the water between you and the shore. It will sink to the bottom, and be easily seen there, as your water is clear. It must lie in water so deep as that you cannot reach it to take it up but by diving for it. To encourage yourself in undertaking to do this, reflect that your progress will be from deeper to shallower water, and that at any time you may by bringing your legs under you and standing on the bottom, raise your head far above the water. Then plunge under it with your eyes open, throwing yourself towards the egg, and endeavouring by the action of your hands and feet against the water to get forward till within reach of it. In this attempt you will find, that the water buoys you up against your inclination; that it is not so easy a thing to sink as you imagined; that you cannot, but by active force, get down to the egg. Thus you feel the power of the water to support you, and learn to confide in that power; while your endeavours to overcome it and to reach the egg, teach you the manner of acting on the water with your feet and hands, which action is afterwards used in swimming to support your head higher above water, or to go forward through it.

I would the more earnestly press you to the trial of this method, because, though I think I satisfyed you that your body is lighter than water, and that you might float in it a long time with your mouth free for breathing, if you would put yourself in a proper posture, and would be still and forbear struggling; yet till you have obtained this experimental confidence in the water, I cannot depend on your having the necessary presence of mind to recollect that posture and the directions I gave you relating to it. The surprize may put all out of your mind. For though we value ourselves on being reasonable knowing creatures, reason and knowledge seem on such occasions to be of little use to us; and the brutes to whom we allow scarce a glimmering of either, appear to have the advantage of us.

I will, however, take this opportunity of repeating those particulars to you, which I mentioned in our last conversation, as by perusing them at your leisure, you may possibly imprint them so in your memory as on occasion to be of some use to you.

1. That though the legs, arms and head, of a human body, being solid parts, are specifically something heavier than fresh water, yet the trunk, particularly the upper part from its hollowness, is so much lighter than water, as that the whole of the body taken together is too light to sink wholly under water, but some part will remain above, untill the lungs become filled with water, which happens from drawing water into them instead of air, when a person in the fright attempts breathing while the mouth and nostrils are under water.

2. That the legs and arms are specifically lighter than salt-water, and will be supported by it, so that a human body would not sink in salt-water, though the lungs were filled as above, but from the greater specific gravity of the head.

3. That therefore a person throwing himself on his back in saltwater, and extending his arms, may easily lie so as to keep his mouth and nostrils free for breathing; and by a small motion of his hands may prevent turning, if he should perceive any tendency to it.

4. That in fresh water, if a man throws himself on his back, near the surface, he cannot long continue in that situation but by proper action of his hands on the water. If he uses no such action, the legs and lower part of the body will gradually sink till he comes into an upright position, in which he will continue suspended, the hollow of the breast keeping the head uppermost.

5. But if in this erect position, the head is kept upright above the shoulders, as when we stand on the ground, the immersion will, by the weight of that part of the head that is out of water, reach above the mouth and nostrils, perhaps a little above the eyes, so that a man cannot long remain suspended in water with his head in that position.

6. The body continuing suspended as before, and upright, if the head be leaned quite back, so that the face looks upwards, all the back part of the head being then under water, and its weight consequently in a great measure supported by it, the face will remain above water quite free for breathing, will rise an inch higher every inspiration, and sink as much every expiration, but never so low as that the water may come over the mouth.

7. If therefore a person unacquainted with swimming, and falling accidentally into the water, could have presence of mind sufficient to avoid struggling and plunging, and to let the body take this natural position, he might continue long safe from drowning till perhaps help would come.9 For as to the cloathes, their additional weight while immersed is very inconsiderable, the water supporting it; though when he comes out of the water, he would find them very heavy indeed.

But, as I said before, I would not advise you or any one to depend on having this presence of mind on such an occasion, but learn fairly to swim; as I wish all men were taught to do in their youth; they would, on many occurrences, be the safer for having that skill, and on many more the happier, as freer from painful apprehensions of danger, to say nothing of the enjoyment in so delightful and wholesome an exercise. Soldiers particularly should, methinks, all be taught to swim; it might be of frequent use either in surprising an enemy, or saving themselves. And if I had now boys to educate, I should prefer those schools (other things being equal) where an opportunity was afforded for acquiring so advantageous an art, which once learnt is never forgotten. I am, Sir, &c.  Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Book that helped make Swimming A Popular Sport in Early America

The Art of Swimming 1699

When learning to swim as a young man, Benjamin Franklin had used the 1699 English translation 1696 French book "The Art of Swimming. Illustrated by proper figures. With advice for bathing..." By Monsìeur Melchisédech Thévenot  (1620-1692) who was a French author, scientist, traveler, cartographer, orientalist, inventor, & diplomat. His The Art of Swimming was one of the first books on the subject.

Of the manner of entering into the water

Thévenot described some strokes commonly used today. He also called attention to what is still the safe way to enter the water: know the bottom. He described treading water, which he thought a useful skill. “It may also be very advantageous,” he wrote, “in case a man is obliged to save himself from some enemy pursuing, by leaping into the water in a dark night; for in that case, one may wait, without making any noise, till he is passed by, and then go again on shore.”

Suspension by the Chin

Thévenot, wrote that because a person is “near the like weight with water,” swimming is easy “insomuch that lying on his back without motion, and holding in his breath he cannot sink.” 

The Perpendicular Descent

Much of Thévenot’s book is devoted to such movements as swimming with both feet out of the water, or “The shew out of the Water four Parts of the Body,” and to turns. But he described swimming strokes we might recognize and explained something like what we would call the sidestroke, which Middleton said was “a laborious” way of swimming but “swifter than any of the rest.”

To come to the top of the water, after having dived

Thévenot details the mechanics of stroking: The action of Swimming in Man, like a Boat with a pair of Oars, is nothing but a motion propagated by Vectes, whose Fulcrums are moveable. The consideration of human Bodies, of the management of their Arms and Legs, from the same Principles, in other Arts and Exercises, shew evidently to us the reasons of several strange and surprising actions, as in Wrestling, Fencing, &c. and at the same time might give us inlets to further and unthought-of Improvements.

To swim holding up the hands

Suppose you Swim on your Back or Belly, lower, or sink your side, and at the same time elevate your right one. In Swimming, when you are thus laid, move your left hand as often as you see convenient, without either separating it far from your body, or sinking it, perpetually striking it out, and retracting it, as in a right line on the surface of the water. Besides the pleasure of Swimming thus, you may also find an advantage by viewing as you please either side of a river, and that one side may rest while the other is employed.

To swim neither on back, nor belly

Thévenot also described how to dog paddle: You are not to imagine that this way is difficult, for it is so far from it, that several who never knew how to Swim before, by practising of it by chance, have kept themselves above water. To Swim like a Dog, you must elevate or lift up and depress one hand successively after another, and do the same also with your feet, only with this difference, that with your hands you must draw the water towards you, and with your feet drive it from you; you must begin with the right hand, and right foot, and afterwards with the left hand and foot, and so successively.

To swim on the belly holding both your hands still

Thévenot thought a stroke he called The Creep was useful for extricating the swimmer from weeds. It is close to what is known today as the breaststroke: The action of Swimming in Man, is very like the motion of Creeping in reptiles; as suppose a Snake, for example, who resting or stopping first, with his fore parts, draws the rest of the body towards them; and it is a way very serviceable to get clear of weeds. To practise it, being upon the belly, you cast your hands forwards, and your feet softly backwards, but close together, and thus you advance, extending your arms and hands as far from your breast as possible, your fingers close, and the palms of your hands a little bent, turned towards the bottom; for being in this posture, if you draw towards your breast with your hands and arms, the water that is before you, by that you give time to the rest of your body to advance further, and disengage yourself from the weeds.

For safety, Thévenot also mentioned swimming with bladders: Besides the common helps of Cork and Bladders, &c. that young beginners make use of to learn, there might be invented several small Machines of different uses for different purposes. How easy, and at the same time how useful, might several Instruments be found out that were very little and easily portable, by which one might pass any River, or escape any danger of the water. Girdles of several sorts (whereof I hear of one lately invented, and very useful) might be made for such cases, of any Materials that are flexible and impervious to the water, such as oil’d Cloths, and several sorts of Leather. A Cylindrical Case made of oil’d Cloth, and kept open on the inside by Iron rings fastened in it at a moderate distance from one another, so that clapping them together it might go into one’s pocket, might be so contrived as to tye round one’s Waist, and fastened to keep the water out, and that alone would save from being drowned.