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Water: quenching your thirst and healing your pain...

Mineral springs, known for their "unique medicinal and therapeutic properties," played an important role in the early tourist and resort industry in Wisconsin, particularly in Waukesha. Known as the "Saratoga of the West," Waukesha's history was forever changed in August of 1868 when Colonel Richard Dunbar drank 12 tumblers of water from the spring at Bethesda and proclaimed his incurable diabetes gone. Dunbar's "miracle" brought trainloads of visitors to Waukesha and led to the development of hotels and resorts to house all those who came seeking miracles of their own. Soon, other "healthful" resorts began springing up all over Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, prompting the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad to issue this travel guide to the healing waters along their rail lines in 1875.

In the nineteenth century, many Americans traveled to distant springs to drink, bathe, and totally immerse themselves in the supposedly healing powers of hot and cold mineral waters. Doctors analyzed newly discovered springs and constructed elaborate scientific classification systems and health regamins based on water cures. The discovery of germs and bacterias in the early 20th century though changed the way that medicine understood and treated disease, leading to a decline in miracle waters.

Posted August 10, 2005
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