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The Tiny Tuberculosis Huts of Colorado Springs

A 1910 postcard depicts the Modern Woodmen of America sanatorium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A 1910 postcard depicts the Modern Woodmen of America sanatorium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Amid the busy streets and rugged landscape of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a number of strange huts stands out from the indie boutiques and red rocks. The structures look quaint and elfin—octagonal with pointy shingled roofs and small windows—and these days, they're used as storage sheds or art studios. Some have been converted into bus stops, and one is a . But as quirky as they are, the huts are also curious relics of medical history: They once housed recovering tuberculosis patients.

A City Built on Disease

Patients at a tuberculosis sanatorium
Patients pose for a photo at a Colorado Springs tuberculosis sanatorium.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

The history of Colorado Springs is tied firmly to tuberculosis. One of the deadliest diseases in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, tuberculosis is a bacterial condition that targets the lungs and causes a prolonged cough, along with fever and chills. It was called consumption due to patients' severe weight loss and physical deterioration—the disease seemed to literally consume them. There was no cure before antibiotics were developed in the 1940s. Because fresh, dry air was the moisture in patients' lungs and make breathing less labored, many sufferers sought treatment in high, arid climates like Colorado Springs.

The city was by General William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad tycoon who had hopes of enticing residents with the region’s scenic beauty. Colorado Springs, nicknamed the City of Sunshine, was also marketed as a due to its high altitude, mineral water springs, and abundant sunlight. Advertisements from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce helped spread the word, claiming the air to be “100 percent aseptic” and free of the germs that might otherwise lurk in stuffy cities.

People seeking treatment for tuberculosis started arriving in Colorado Springs in the 1870s to —or, unfortunately, die. In the 1890s, new tuberculosis sanatoriums brought tens of thousands of people to the region. Leah Davis Witherow, curator of history at the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum, writes that “by 1900, approximately 20,000 health-seekers emigrated to the southwest each year,” with one-third of Colorado residents coming to the state “in search of a cure for themselves or a close family member” [].

Many who recovered stayed and started a new life in Colorado Springs, so the town’s population boom is largely attributed to tuberculosis. “A lot of people would just show up in Colorado Springs hoping to get treatment or to recover on their own,” Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, tells Mental Floss. “Tuberculosis was our first major industry in Colorado Springs. We were really just a resort town but tuberculosis became the major driving force of our economy from about the 1880s until after World War II.”

Tiny Tents and Sun Baths

Tuberculosis tents at a sanatorium
Patients lived in Gardiner Sanitary Tents at the Modern Woodmen of America sanatorium.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。At the height of tuberculosis treatment efforts in 1917, over a dozen sanatoriums dotted the region, each accompanied by a number of TB huts. Major sanatoriums like the Modern Woodmen of America's, which treated members of the fraternal benefit society for free, had over 200 patients.

Each invalid lived in his or her own hut (officially called the Gardiner Sanitary Tent) designed by Charles Fox Gardiner and inspired by the teepee, which is built to boost airflow. Made of wood or canvas, the huts were open at the top and had several openings around the base for fresh air. Each hut was steam-heated and included a bed, closet, chairs, washstand, and electric lights.

“Tuberculosis huts were what we might think of today as tiny houses. They each hosted one patient. The purpose of the hut was to keep patients isolated and help them learn how to keep from spreading the disease,” Mayberry says.

Besides self-isolation, part of the open-air treatment required patients to sit outside in steamer chairs for six to eight hours a day—even during winter. Ventilation was seen as necessary for recovery, since it prevented germs from hanging in the air. Some facilities even prohibited talking during rest periods. The dry air was thought to help dry the moisture from the lungs. Heliotherapy was also popular; patients were instructed to lounge in the sun for extended periods of time. While there’s little evidence today that sunbathing did much to help sufferers, it was believed that prolonged sun exposure would help kill the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

Advertisement for Gardiner Sanitary Tent
Gardiner Sanitary Tents are advertised in The Garden of the Gods magazine in 1902.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Fresh mountain air and almost year-round sunshine was also a clever marketing tool to lure cure-chasers to the region. A 1915 advertisement from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce assured visitors:

“The climate of Colorado contains more of the essential elements which effectively promote health than that of any other country. These requisites are found in the chemical composition of the atmosphere; in the dry, pure, clean, soft, yet stimulating breezes which quicken circulation and multiply the corpuscles of the blood; in the tonic effect and exhilarating influence of the ozone; in the flood of its life-giving germ-destroying sunshine …”

But rest, fresh air, and sunshine would only do so much. Three times a day, patients were prescribed hearty doses of rare meat, raw eggs, milk, and rye bread to boost their immune systems. This diet was meant to fatten them up if they had suffered significant weight loss. The schedule patients followed was rigid but mandatory if they wanted to continue receiving treatment at the sanatoriums. Witherow reveals a typical daily schedule recorded in patient Emeline Hilton's journal:

"Six a.m.: Sister brought a glass of milk
Seven a.m.: Took temperature and pulse before rising; cold sponge bath
Breakfast: Rare beef, two raw eggs, 'heels' of rye bread and one pint of milk
8:30-12: Out-door inactivity in the sun; temperature and pulse; glass of milk at eleven; rest in room till dinner
Dinner: Rare beef, one raw egg, rye bread and a pint of milk
1-5:30 p.m.: Porch, with 4 o’clock interruption of record (charting of temperature and pulse) and milk and room till supper
Supper: Rare beef, one raw egg, rye bread and pint of milk
7:30: Bed and lights out
9 p.m.: Record (charting of temperature and pulse) and milk, if awake"

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。According to Witherow, the “forced-feeding” method seemed to work for Hilton, a patient at the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium, who referred to her days spent there as “Rare, Raw, and Rye, and a gallon of milk each day.” Hilton's weight increased from 108 to 147.5 pounds after a year of treatment. (One might ask why patients were served rye bread as opposed to any other kind of bread. “The prevailing belief was that the darker the bread, the more nutritious. The goal was to add as much weight onto the patient as possible, and rye bread in particular was thought to be healthier, filled with nutrients, and denser,” Witherow says.)

Tuberculosis Huts Today

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。While tuberculosis sanatoriums helped some patients beat their symptoms, the development of effective antibiotics in the 1940s finally provided a cure for the disease and made the facilities obsolete. When the sanatoriums closed, the tuberculosis huts were sold off rather than demolished, which is why several still stand today.

While some were put to public use, like the hut that was converted into a visitor center at Historic Site, others serve solely as historical landmarks. One hut still stands by Glockner Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which is now . Another renovated hut from Woodmen sanatorium resides at and serves as a monument, furnished like it would have been when patients lived there. In addition, the has a year-round exhibit called City of Sunshine, which not only includes a hut adorned in period style, but also displays experimental medical instruments, 19th-century exercise equipment, and a pharmacy exhibit filled with patent medicines.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。Whether used as a storage shed or a museum exhibit, tuberculosis huts are a significant part of the city’s history. “I keep my eyes on them because I want to make sure they’re cared for,” Mayberry says. “They’re an artifact of our architecture in Colorado Springs and it’s an important reminder of who we used to be.”

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7 Pieces of Reading Advice From History’s Greatest Minds

When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
Lucien Aigner/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that unites philosophers, writers, politicians, and scientists across time and distance, it’s the belief that reading can broaden your worldview and strengthen your intellect better than just about any other activity. When it comes to choosing what to read and how to go about it, however, opinions start to diverge. From Virginia Woolf’s affinity for wandering secondhand bookstores to Theodore Roosevelt’s rejection of a definitive “best books” list, here are seven pieces of reading advice to help you build an impressive to-be-read (TBR) pile.

1. Read books from eras past // Albert Einstein

albert einstein at home circa 1925
Albert Einstein poses at home in 1925 with a mix of old and new books.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Keeping up with current events and the latest buzz-worthy book from the bestseller list is no small feat, but Albert Einstein thought it was vital to leave some room for older works, too. Otherwise, you’d be “completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of [your] times,” he wrote in a 1952 journal article [].

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。“Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses,” he wrote.

2. Don’t jump too quickly from book to book // Seneca

seneca the younger
Seneca the Younger, ready to turn that unwavering gaze on a new book.
The Print Collector via Getty Images

Seneca the Younger, a first-century Roman Stoic philosopher and trusted advisor of Emperor Nero, believed that reading too wide a variety in too short a time would keep the teachings from leaving a lasting impression on you. “You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind,” he in a letter to Roman writer Lucilius.

If you’re wishing there were a good metaphor to illustrate this concept, take your pick from these gems, courtesy of Seneca himself:

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。“Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong. There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about. And in reading of many books is distraction.”

3. Shop at secondhand bookstores // Virginia Woolf

virginia woolf
Virginia Woolf wishing she were in a bookstore.
Culture Club/Getty Images

In her  “Street Haunting,” Virginia Woolf described the merits of shopping in secondhand bookstores, where the works “have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

According to Woolf, browsing through used books gives you the chance to stumble upon something that wouldn’t have risen to the attention of librarians全天幸运飞艇数据网页。 and booksellers, who are often much more selective in curating their collections than secondhand bookstore owners. To give us an example, she imagined coming across the shabby, self-published account of “a man who set out on horseback over a hundred years ago to explore the woollen market in the Midlands and Wales; an unknown traveller, who stayed at inns, drank his pint, noted pretty girls and serious customs, wrote it all down stiffly, laboriously for sheer love of it.”

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。“In this random miscellaneous company,” she wrote, “we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

4. You can skip outdated scientific works, but not old literature // Edward Bulwer-Lytton

edward bulwer-lytton
An 1831 portrait of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, smug at the thought of people reading his novels for centuries to come.
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Though his novels were immensely popular during his lifetime, 19th-century British novelist and Parliamentarian Edward Bulwer-Lytton is now mainly known for coining the phrase It was a dark and stormy night, the opening line of his 1830 Paul Clifford. It’s a little ironic that Bulwer-Lytton’s books aren’t very widely read today, because he himself was a firm believer in the value of reading old literature.

“In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest,” he in his 1863 essay collection, Caxtoniana. “The classic literature is always modern. New books revive and redecorate old ideas; old books suggest and invigorate new ideas.”

To Bulwer-Lytton, fiction couldn't ever be obsolete, because it contained timeless themes about human nature and society that came back around in contemporary works; in other words, you can’t disprove fiction. You can, however, disprove scientific theories, so Bulwer-Lytton thought it best to stick to the latest works in that field. (That said, since scientists use previous studies to inform their work, you can still learn a ton about certain schools of thought by delving into debunked ideas—plus, it’s often really entertaining to see what people used to believe.) 

5. Check out authors’ reading lists for book recommendations // Mortimer J. Adler

mortimer j. adler in 1983
Mortimer J. Adler in 1983, happy to read the favorite works of his favorite authors.
George Rose/Getty Images

In his 1940 guide How to Read a Book全天幸运飞艇数据网页。, American philosopher Mortimer J. Adler talked about the importance of choosing books that other authors consider worth reading. “The great authors were great readers,” he , “and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.”

Adler went on to clarify that this would probably matter most in the philosophy field, “because philosophers are great readers of each other,” and it’s easier to grasp a concept if you also know what inspired it. While you don’t necessarily have to read everything a novelist has read in order to fully understand their own work, it’s still a good way to get quality book recommendations from a trusted source. If your favorite author mentions a certain novel that really made an impression on them, there’s a pretty good chance you’d enjoy it, too.

6. Reading so-called guilty pleasures is better than reading nothing // Mary Wollstonecraft

mary wollstonecraft in 1797
Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797, apparently demonstrating that a book with blank pages is worth even less than a novel.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

To the 18th-century writer, philosopher, and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, just about all novels fell into the category of “guilty pleasures” (though she didn’t call them that). In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman全天幸运飞艇数据网页。, she the “stupid novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste and draw the heart aside from its daily duties.”

If her judgment seems unnecessarily harsh, it’s probably because it’s taken out of its historical context. Wollstonecraft definitely wasn’t the only one who considered novels to be low-quality reading material compared to works of history and philosophy, and she was also indirectly criticizing society for preventing women from seeking more intellectual pursuits. If 21st-century women were confined to watching unrealistic, highly edited dating shows and frowned upon for trying to see 2019’s Parasite or the latest Ken Burns documentary全天幸运飞艇数据网页。, we might sound a little bitter, too.

Regardless, Wollstonecraft still admitted that even guilty pleasures can help expand your worldview. “Any kind of reading I think better than leaving a blank still a blank, because the mind must receive a degree of enlargement, and obtain a little strength by a slight exertion of its thinking powers,” she wrote. In other words, go forth and enjoy your beach read.

7. You get to make the final decision on how, what, and when to read // Theodore Roosevelt

theodore roosevelt in office in 1905
Theodore Roosevelt pauses for a quick photo before getting back to his book in 1905.
// No Known Restrictions on Publication

Theodore Roosevelt might have lived his own life in an exceptionally regimented fashion, but his outlook on reading was surprisingly free-spirited. Apart from being a staunch proponent of finding at least a few minutes to read every single day—and starting young—he thought that most of the details should be left up to the individual.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。“The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be,” he wrote in his autobiography, and rejected the idea that there’s a definitive “best books” list that everyone should abide by. Instead, Roosevelt recommended choosing books on subjects that interest you and letting your mood guide you to your next great read. He also wasn’t one to roll his eyes at a happy ending, explaining that “there are enough horror and grimness and sordid squalor in real life with which an active man has to grapple.”

In short, Roosevelt would probably advise you to see what Seneca, Albert Einstein, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other great minds had to say about reading, and then make your own decisions in the end.

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