Nurturing Physical and Spiritual Health at the Turn of the 20th century
health became an important topic during the turn of the 20th century.
More was being learned about how the human body functioned. People
were studying the effects of adverse stresses. Emphasis on the importance
of eating the right foods and exercising to improve physical health,
led to a number of innovations. Health foods such as Graham crackers
and Ovaltine were developed. Forms of exercise such as boxing and
playing with Indian clubs were used to achieve good health and to
develop a desirable form.
Cleanliness and good sanitation were seen as
means of disease prevention, leading to a number of inventions such
as the carpet sweeper and the bathroom commode. Many tonics and
elixirs were developed and used to ease or even cure health problems.
Fresh air was seen as essential to good health
and thought to be a cure for diseases such as tuberculosis. Sleeping
in the fresh air, even in winter, was thought to promote good health.
B.F. Skinner developed the "fresh air box" for infants.
Urbanites who lived among the polluting factories sought out the
undeveloped countryside for respite. Mountain houses, health spas
and entertainment parks were developed to lure city dwellers into
the healthful mountain air. Travel to rural areas for picnics, swimming,
and camping, all while enjoying the country views, was a new pastime.
This new recreation was not reserved for the wealthy. Factory workers
were not confined to the workplace the way agricultural workers
were. There was leisure time to travel and explore their growing
New understandings about the physical world were
being developed. The unseen forces of electricity and magnetism
held a new fascination. This captivating interest became part of
a movement called "spiritualism." One of the tenets
of this movement, which was large and countrywide, included the
belief the one could communicate with the spirits of the deceased.
People would stand or sit in a circle, joining hands to allow the
combined power to "call up" the spirits from "beyond
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