The water-cure was introduced into America in 1844 by Joel Shew, M.D., who had gone to Austria to study the water-cure under Priessnitz. He was one of a number of American physicians who did this, among whom was Edward A. Kittredge, M.D., of Boston.

Vincent Priessnitz

The introduction of hydropathy into this country occurred 22 years after Jennings had discarded the drugging system and adopted the Hygienic practice. Its introduction occurred 14 years after Graham launched his crusade and about an equal time after Alcott began lecturing and writing; it was nearly ten years after the founding of the first Physiological Society in Boston, seven years after the publication of the first issue of The Graham Journal of Health and Longevity and five years after the publication of Graham's Science of Human Life. The Hygienic movement was already well established and had thousands of adherents at the time of the introduction of the water-cure into this country. Its books and magazines already had a wide circulation and others besides Graham, Gove and Alcott lectured to the people on Hygienic living.

Great numbers of physicians had lost confidence in drugs and took advantage of the water-cure as a means of escaping from the drugging system. Even though they adopted more or less of Hygiene in connection with their water-cure practices, they called their practice hydropathy and called themselves hydropathists. Hydropathy may be justly regarded as a convenient escape-hatch, as many physicians who turned to water-cure thought of water as an agent that could be made to take the place of drugs altogether. In other words, they professed to be able to do with water everything that they had formerly sought to do with drugs. As A. J. Compton, M.D., wrote in the Journal, December 1858: "Some hydropathists use water as a drug, imputing all the agency to the water; but such are only following in the beaten paths of drug-venders . . ."

Writing in the Journal, October 1857, G. H. Taylor, M.D., said that it is frequently asserted by water-cure practitioners that "all the virtues (?) of drugs are imbodied in this single substance (water); in its power to produce emetic, stimulant, anti-febrile, counter-irritant, and a host of other effects, rivaling the vaunted qualities of remedies set forth in the most approved pharmacopeias. Some argue for a verbal modification of this statement, in the distinction, that one set of curative measures employ poisons, while the other does not. This distinction becomes insignificant when effects are regarded, in which we are really to decide which is least inimical to vital welfare, rather than upon abstract chemical quality."

Taylor further said that "it is this reliance upon the use of water to produce these manifestations, not inaptly called crises, that is the cause of much danger to the perpetuity of the system of medicine that we employ; and though the ignorant and empirical use of these means be decidedly better than any other, because based on a higher fundamental idea, yet the practice should be carefully guarded lest it degenerate into a practice no better than the theory."

Shew's Spa

America's first hydropathic institution, founded by Joel Shew, M.D.

Houghton declared water to be the best, the safest and the most universal of "our remedial agents." Writing in the Journal, January 1854, Dr. Kittredge said: "I only wish to tell you--and I know what I tell you--that water and its adjuncts are all-sufficient in all cases." In this instance, what Kittredge regarded as adjuncts to water were Hygienic means. So great was the importance that some hydropathists attached to the establishment of correct habits, that there were among them those who contended that their success in the care of the sick was attributable to this and that the water-cure processes were of no account. It was quite natural that the dyed-in-the-wool hydropathists should deny the truth of this, even while placing great stress on correct living habits. Greater consideration of the work of Jennings and of the accomplishments of the Grahamites before the water-cure was introduced into America, would have convinced even the most devoted water-cure enthusiast of the soundness of this position.

There were, on the other hand, many hydropathic institutions and hydropathic practitioners who did not rely upon any correction of the ways of life. Mrs. R. B. Gleason, who, with her husband, conducted one of the leading hydropathic establishments in the country, says of the many water-cures she visited that: "In most of them, water is the remedy, and the only one employed." She mentions attention to diet at a few of these institutions. Many hydropathists considered flesh foods to be indispensable to man's highest physiological condition and many of them thought that unbolted meal was too coarse for the human digestive tract. A hydropath of the sixth decade of the past century likens some of the splashing and douching of the time to Noah's flood.

In 1850 Catharine E. Beecher contributed an article to the New York Tribune containing her second report on hydropathy in America, the first having been published three years previously. Miss Beecher's second report was written after more reading, more investigation and more personal experience with hydropathy. In this report she said: "It is important that the public should understand that there are two schools in the hydropathic world, one of them following what is called the heroic treatment, of which Priessnitz is the exemplar; the other adopts the more moderate method and the German author, Franke, is probably the fairest exponent of this school."

Many hydropathists of the period also gave drugs; and when their patients recovered, they were as likely to credit the recovery to the drugs as to the water treatments. Indeed, some of them frankly stated that drugging was their main reliance and that water was subsidiary to the drugs. This attitude was commonly shared by patients also. At the present time we find that one who receives chiropractic adjustments in addition to Hygienic care is likely to think that the adjustments restored health and that the Hygiene had little to do with the recovery. Little pills or little punches, either is likely to get the credit and the healing power of the body is likely to be ignored. It should be obvious to the reader that when two systems so diametrically opposed as Hygiene and drug medication are brought together and recovery follows, Hygiene will not receive credit in the common mind.

There was considerable controversy at the time between hydropathists over the matter of which water, soft or hard (mineral laden), was best for use in hydropathic practice. Some insisted upon soft water, while others credited the minerals in hard water with remarkable curative efficacy. Dr. Jackson castigated hydropathists who used hard water, saying he did not know one of them who did not also use drugs. He indicated also that they gave very little attention to diet, did not serve plain fare and fed condiments. Also, he said that they fed stall-fed meats to their patients. On the other hand, those devotees of hydropathy who mixed drugs with their hydriatic practices called all who rejected drugs "radicals," "ultra," etc.