The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 344
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
esty in interpretation and explanation. Its eye-catching design is a credit to the
University of Oklahoma Press, a publisher with whom Debo had a professional
relationship for many years.
Cochise College, Sierra Vzsta, Arizona H. Henrietta Stockel
Taking the Waters in Texas: Spnngs, Spas, and Fountains of Youth. By Janet Mace
Valenza. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2ooo. Pp. xiii+265. Acknowledg-
ments, introduction, postscript, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-
292-78733-2. $40.00, cloth.)
Taking the Waters in Texas chronicles a largely forgotten chapter in the story of
the Lone Star State. The focus is mineral springs, geologic features that are
found throughout the world. In the late-nineteenth century, Texas was celebrat-
ed for its numerous medicinal watering sites enjoyed by thousands of visitors
seeking rest, relaxation, and recreation in their healing waters. Some of these
historic spas are remembered through the names of communities: Carrizo
Springs, Indian Hot Springs, and Mineral Wells; most are either little known or
forgotten. The author, Janet Mace Valenza, is a geographer and the book is an
outcome of her doctoral research. Her personal travels to these sites is evident
throughout the text. The major contributions of the book are its overview of an
early form of tourism and its compendium of the medicinal sites that dot the
An introduction acquaints us with the author's enthusiasm for her subject.
The first two chapters review the history of healing waters. Highlights include ac-
counts of Valenza's visits to sites including the elaborate Roman bathing place at
Bath, England, and spas at Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and French
Lick, Indiana. In nineteenth-century America, hydrotherapy became popular as
a method of improving one's health; many considered water-bathing a form of
religious expression through returning the body to natural forces. Taking the
waters was practiced at sites set apart from conventional sources of water by dis-
tinctive features such as smell, taste, temperature, and water flow. Famous spas
emerged including Saratoga in New York and White Sulphur Springs in West
Virginia followed by western sites, particularly in Colorado and California during
the late-nineteenth century. Mineral springs were promoted as attractions in ev-
ery state except North Dakota. While earlier studies suggest that there were only
a few spas in Texas, Valenza finds that "despite their relative anonymity to the
rest of the nation" (p. 29), people flocked to the state's mineral waters. In the
twentieth century hydrotherapy rapidly disappeared and the number of active
springs nationally declined from 425 in 1927 to 34 in 1943.
The more than one hundred recognized springs and wells in Texas constitute
the subject matter of the remaining six chapters. Many of these sites became re-
sorts, commercial enterprises which advertised their healing waters. Some
spurred the development of towns in the post-Civil War years; by the early
1900s, Mineral Wells, a town of 8,ooo with more than 150,000 visitors annually,
became a model for similar resort communities. The author discusses the pro-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/396/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.