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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Spa Treatment: 1900

Spa Treatment: 1900

Circa 1900. "Room with medicine cabinet, basins, and massage or treatment table, probably the Ypsilanti mineral bath house." Note the can of ether in what looks to me like an operating room. Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Schedule for a sunny day

Looks like most of the light in this room is natural from the skylight. Actually, this place is not near as scary looking as some operating rooms seen on Shorpy in the past.

Family Ties

My mother was born in Ypsilanti in the 1920s. I wonder if it was in a "spa" like this one? I rather hope not.

Could well be a spa

An exclusive spa remote from the prying eyes of society might be just the place for a discreet scrape doctor to perform "procedures."

A few weeks taking the waters to recuperate, and the lady can return home, rested and rejuvenated, with plenty of fresh euphemisms for all her friends and admirers.

Or it could all be completely innocent, in a "Road to Wellville" sort of way.


Is it oval or half-moon? I've never seen one of this design. I suppose it just never caught on.

Yikes !!

Spa, or operating room, either way I'm glad I live now and not 110 years ago. Nevertheless, people survived and here we all are - too many of us.

I notice that in a lot of these old photos, be it an operating room, pharmacy, candy store, bicycle shop, or whatever, the floors are often a wreck like this one, filthy, or both. People didn't pay much attention to such details, I guess. Another reason to be happy it's 2010.

I wonder what people will think of our operating rooms in 110 years.


This has got to be the creepiest spa ever! It really gives me the shivers. All old medical photographs look so scary.

Wider than a mile

It looks like this room could be set up for what my mom called a high colonic. Two coffeepot-looking containers setting on gas burners for warming water. Hanging is a container with a rubber tube and an unrevealed apparatus on the other end. The rubber ring on the treatment table appears could have the ability to collect whatever treatment resultant may become evedent directing it toward the collection pot on the stool. The only thing lacking is John Harvey Kellogg singing "Moon River."

Bad Dream Maker

Yikes! A drainage ring on the operating table, long scalpels on the instrument table, something floating in the specimen jar, and carbolic acid was probably the only antibiotic available to sterilize instruments and the surgical site. At this time surgery was often the only option available to cure serious or chronic infections and often resulted in new infections.


If that irrigation pitcher with tubing, and the drainage donut are for what I think they're for, I'd take the ether!

Circuit Breakers

Wow, that old knob & tube wiring is really interesting. The lamps
are in series like the old Christmas tree lights that all stop working
when a single bulb blows.

Ain't no spa

If this is a spa, I'm a monkey's uncle. The can of ether is a clue; so are the huge surgical knives on the table plus what looks like at least one surgical curette--the kind used for D&Cs. My guess is that this is a delivery room. See the basin on the table, with a drape leading into a jar on the stool? Might have been used to catch blood and amniotic fluid.

But, speaking as a physician, I don't think this is a "spa."

High colonic

I can't help but think that elevated container had something to do with enemas or some such tomfoolery as that.

Squirm, gulp

I don't think I like all the gravity vessels with hoses.

Uh, no thanks.

I'm not entirely certain I want to know what kind of "treatments" went on in this room. Something along the lines of a very thorough cleaning, so to speak?

Another angle on the proceedings

Maybe this one should have been titled "Taking the Waters," what with the oversupply of enema equipment in the room. And shared rooms for such procedure?

Not to mention

what appears to be some sort of rubber incontinence device on the table.

I say operating room!

Lots of knives and IV stuff. The spa from hell or an operating room. I say operating room!

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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