Think the concept of medical tourism is only a 21st century idea? Think again. For thousands of years, travelers have covered vast distances to visit spa towns that are dedicated to convalescence and wellness. In fact, all of the great empires of the world, from the Greeks to the Romans to the British, saw that the keys to success and longevity are a healthy and happy populace. 19th century America was certainly no different.
A recent article on Boing Boing talks about a similar idea through this very cool find– an illustrated travel guide of winter resorts for tourists and invalids. If you were crippled with consumption or some other nasty ailment and the cold harsh winters were getting you down, you could consult this guide for warmer, healthier options. For example, if you had a nasty case of rheumatism (which means achy joints to us modern folk) the guide suggests traveling to Santa Barbara where you could buy a horse for $20, ride along the beach and hit up the Hot Sulphur Springs with (sic) sulphureted hydrogen, iron, aluminum, and potash.
Of course, someone has to pay for all of these excellent travel tips, which brings us to the advertisements in the first half of the travel guide. They sell everything a sick traveler could want, from “circular letters of credit” or their version of a credit card, to hotel vouchers worth $15 a week (a bargain!) to effervescent seltzers guaranteed to remedy ailments such as “sick headache, nervous headache, dyspepsia, sour stomach, bilious headache, dizziness, costiveness, loss of appetite, gout, indigestion, torpidity of the liver, gravel, rheumatic affections, piles, heartburn, seasickness, fevers” and much more.
It’s simply fascinating to read and an interesting look into the burgeoning travel business in the 19th century. You can check out the entire manuscript here, but reader beware: if you end up trying to redeem any of the coupons in the book, they just might be out of date.