This Is Not a New Yorker Cartoon

Hydropathic_applications_at_Graefenberg,_per_Claridge's_Hydropathy_bookActually these are deadly serious 19th-century drawings meant to inform readers of the different methods of hydrotherapy available to sufferers of many ailments.

Never mind the nonchalance of the gentleman reading in the sitz bath, who we must assume is sans culottes but who keeps his boots on and his dignity in intact.

I don’t know about you, but I find this funny. However, it occurs to me that a 19th-century audience viewed the drawings with an entirely different frame of reference.

My friend Ann discusses the place of hydrotherapy before the advent of modern medicine in the current post to the blog she writes for the Merchant’s House Museum, a historic house museum I have been affiliated with for over 20 years.

She points out that at least the “water cure” was more benign than other therapies available, namely bloodletting, cupping, and blistering, which caused actual harm

As it happened, the day Ann’s post was published, I found it necessary to get myself to the emergency room in a hurry because of a severe allergic reaction manifesting itself as a case of hives! Believe me, I am extraordinarily grateful for the injections of prednisone and benadryl on offer there. A hundred fifty years ago, I would probably have found myself wrapped in a wet winding sheet.

To read Ann’s interesting discussion of hydrotherapy, go here.

3 thoughts on “This Is Not a New Yorker Cartoon

  1. If you think this is bad, you should have seen the room where they administered the cold water enemas at the hydrotherapy hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Kim and I visited, and while there were no pictures, believe me just looking at the equipment was enough to thank God for the century of our birth. I guess 100 years from now they will be saying “Can you believe they gave people prednisone for hives? “


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