Missouri's mineral springs and resorts played a vital role in the social and economic development of the state. In Healing Waters, Loring Bullard delves into the long history of these springs and spas, concentrating particularly on the use and development of the mineral springs from 1800 to about the 1930s. During this period, there were at least eighty sites in the state that could be described as resorts. Because so many people were drawn to the springs by their faith in the healing virtues of the springwater, towns were frequently founded at the mineral springs. These places fought hard to capture the attention of Missourians who were seeking better health, relaxation, or good times in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Bullard first examines the development of mineral water resorts in Europe from ancient times, early spa traditions in America, and Missouri's frontier spas. He then discusses the establishment of saltworks at the state's saline springs and the importance of the early salt trade; the brisk business that grew around the bottling of mineral waters; the use and development of mineralized groundwater resources; the geologic and biologic factors that create Missouri's mineral waters; and public and professional belief in the curative values of mineral waters.
Healing Waters also traces the demise of Missouri's mineral water resorts and towns. Well into the twentieth century, when modern medicine had seemingly taken hold, many physicians and scientists continued to proclaim the medicinal virtues of mineral waters. However, by the second quarter of the twentieth century, medical science and popular opinion had discounted the immediate medical usefulness of mineral waters. As advances were made in microbiology and biochemistry, and with the inherent promise of drug cures, orthodox medicine began to turn a cold shoulder on mineral water treatments. Spa treatments, with their long regimens, also did not fit well with the increasingly fast-paced lifestyles of the public.
By visiting the sites, gathering local historical accounts, interviewing local citizens, and photographing remaining artifacts, Bullard has done a masterful job in providing the answers to why these vibrant social centers came to be and why they faded.