A Visit to the Battle Creek Sanitarium (1914)

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was a health resort established in 1866 in the Michigan town that bears its name. Originally called the Western Health Reform Institute, the sanitarium was an effort of the Seventh-Day Adventists who had earlier settled in the area and regarded health reform as an essential element of people life’s in the search of physical and moral development. Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventist church, and her husband ran the institute during its first years, using “natural” approaches to healing in a time when mainstream physicians still used harsh therapeutic interventions such as bloodletting, strong botanical remedies, and calomel (a mercury-based remedy that severely affected the body constitution but its effects were physically expressed in the gums). However, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, American doctors started to professionalize medical training and services, incorporating doctors who had studied the most recent scientific discoveries that impacted human health in medical facilities. The Seventh Day Adventists of Battle Creek followed this trend. They supported John Harvey Kellogg’s medical training and hired him as director of the institute. Once head of the medical facility, Kellogg used it to impose a religion of health based on the traditional non-naturals that doctors considered the basis for good health: an adequate environment suitable for the patient, a good balance of exercise and rest, the ingestions of food and drinks according to the patient’s constitution, an adequate amount of sleep, regular excretions, and finally, the selection of social and personal events that may produce strong passions and emotions in the patient. Dr. Kellogg remained in the Sanitarium for the rest of his life and transformed it into a health resort with up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic technologies that attracted hundreds of middle- and upper-class Americans from all over the nation, who sought relieve from the demands of an increasingly urbanized and industrialized society in Dr. Kellogg’s natural approaches.

Using the documents in the Claude Carr Cody Collection at Southwestern University, Students of the History course “Popularizing Science” created this exhibit. Through Carr Cody experience at the Sanitarium, students explored different aspect of the patients’ experience with health and medicine in the mid-1910s. Students analyzed Dr. Kellogg’s approach to health in his own patient manuals, exercise regimes at the Sanitarium through a daily program, dietary regimes through Cody’s Diet Prescription, medical diagnosis and diagnostic technologies through Cody’s Urine Examination, and the cost of health through Cody’s expenses at the Sanitarium. Click the exhibit pages to learn more about Dr. Kellogg, the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and patients’ experiences with health and medicine during the US Progressive Era. 



Dr. Jethro Hernandez Berrones