A sanatorium is an institution where people suffering from physical or mentalproblems can go for treatment and recuperation. Often, the natural resourcesof the area in which a sanatorium is located, such as mineral springs, or clean mountain air, are used as part of the treatment or cure. In general, a sanatorium was designed to treat people suffering from a particular disease, such as tuberculosis.
Sanatoriums (also called sanitariums), were common in Europe for centuries, but they didn't become popular in the United States until the latter part of the 1800s.
American physician Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) is credited with popularizing the use of sanatoriums in the United States. Trudeau, who had contracted tuberculosis while nursing his brother through the disease, founded thefirst American tuberculosis sanatorium in 1885; he started what became knownas the "sanatorium movement" in the United States.
After he became ill with his second bout of the deadly disease, and believedhe would soon die, Trudeau traveled to upper New York State's Adirondack Mountains to live out his final days. Instead of dying, Trudeau recovered and hissymptoms disappeared. He credited his cure to the fresh air of the surrounding mountains and decided to open a sanatorium on the site. Patients who cameto his sanatorium were offered lots of fresh air, moderate exercise, and healthful diets.
The Trudeau Sanatorium at Saranac Lake was not the first sanatorium in the country, but it was the first one designed to treat people with tuberculosis. At that time, tuberculosis was a deadly illness, responsible for more than 10%of deaths caused by disease in the United States.
The Trudeau Sanatorium became the model for other tuberculosis treatment facilities, and by 1930, there were 600 such sanatoriums (or sanatoria) with a total of 84,000 beds.
Sanatoriums to treat tuberculosis were the most common type of these institutions, but others were established to help people suffering from other disorders. In 1879, American physician Leslie E. Keeley (1832-1900) established a sanatorium in Dwight, Illinois, designated for the treatment of alcoholics anddrug addicts. John H. Kellog, an American physician best known for his development of dry breakfast cereals, started a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1876. One of the first health food enthusiasts in this country, Kellogdeveloped vegetable products for patients in order to add variation to theirdiets and improve their health.
Other sanatoriums are designed to treat patients suffering from mental problems. Once extremely popular in this country, the large mental health sanatoriums that warehoused hundreds of patients have been phased out and only partially replaced by smaller, community-based programs. However, large mental health sanatoriums are still popular in some other parts of the world.
Sanatoriums originally were favored by wealthy patients who had the time andmoney necessary to spend long periods away from home while recuperating fromillness. Some sanatoriums later admitted middle-class and poor people as gestures of good-will and service.