Could You Afford Battle Creek Sanitarium?

[Weekly Bills] [Claude Carr Cody Collection] [Weekly Bills] [Claude Carr Cody Collection] [Weekly Bills] [Claude Carr Cody Collection] [Weekly Bills] [Claude Carr Cody Collection]


Can You Afford Battle Creek?

 The Battle Creek Sanitarium played a pivotal role in healthcare reform during its time of operation. The sanitarium was rather famous in it’s day, serving the wealthy and famous as well as Southwestern University’s beloved C.C. Cody. Cody was one of the many Americans who traveled to receive treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. During the year 1914, C.C. Cody, who was serving as the president of the university at the time, made several trips to the popular health spa himself. Southwestern Special Collections has a collection of artifacts from Cody’s stay that could aid historians in understanding Battle Creek as well as the role the sanitarium played in understanding health at the time. Taking into consideration the weekly bills issued to C.C. Cody at the end of his stay, historians are able to develop information on a single individual’s stay and experience at The Battle Creek Sanitarium.[1]  However, by looking closely at each artifact, historians can gain a better understanding of the practices and reform a patient might come in undergo while staying at Battle Creek. C.C. Cody’s bills serve as an opportunity to gain a better understanding on the role the Battle Creek Sanitarium played in reforming healthcare in the twentieth century.  

This paper will focus primarily on the role that the Weekly bills from Southwestern’s Special Collection play in understanding the meaning of healthcare at the time. The weekly bills were printed on long, slender sheets of paper. The bills were uniformly made and leave spaces in order for them to be filled in order to keep record of the services of an individual patron. The artifacts resemble a modern day receipt in that they provide a list of services or products purchased by an individual as well as the price of that service or product. The bills function as a way for the treasurer to keep track of the number of charges for each of Battle Creek’s customers. Along the side of the bill there is a statement printed in capitalized red ink that reads, “BILLS PAYABLE WEEKLY (ON MONDAY) G.H. MURPHY, Treasurer”. Closer research on George H. Murphy concluded that not only was Murphy an institutional officer as the treasurer, but he also served on the Board of Trustees alongside the infamous John H. Kellogg, M.D., LL.D., F.A.C.S. who was the President and Superintendent at Battle Creek.[2] The different balances of the bills located in Special Collection for C.C. Cody range from $14 dollars to $61 dollars per stay depending on the number of treatments and examinations Cody wanted to receive. According to an online historical currency conversion website, $61 U.S. dollars in 1914 had the same buying power as $1432.06 in todays economy.[3]  This is telling about the type of patrons that were able to afford the luxurious health spa.

Looking specifically at C.C. Cody’s Weekly bills, it is apparent that he visited the sanitarium fairly frequently for a time in his life always producing two bills for one date. As previously stated, the smallest bills on record are charged for $14 dollar rate with no selected treatments. According to The way out of invalidism & inefficiency: Battle Creek sanitarium, the cost of room and board that was located in the main costs upward $14.00 dollars per week; this is not including the cost treatment. The variation in prices of the rooms is primarily due to different location, size, furnishing, etc. of the room being rented.[4] This points me to believe a guest accompanied Cody on his trips to the sanitarium. There are 3 sets of bills from each weeks stay at the sanitarium. The number of bills addressed to Cody for each week of his stay with varying services and smaller purchases leads me to believe that one person was most accompanying Cody to his visits to the infamous Battle Creek Sanitarium. This was mostly likely quite the treat as the sanitarium was seen as hot spot for celebrities and the wealthy to come and be educated on how to live a healthier living.

While both Mr. and Mrs. Cody attended the sanitarium, only one person seemed to be receiving intense health examinations. Within each set of bills from a particular date, there is usually a higher priced bill that has multiple treatments on it as well as higher priced room and board. The second bill is usually the minimally priced room charges with the occasional hair dressing appointment. Cody was frequently charged for receiving the following treatments when he visited the sanitarium: massage therapy, general health examinations, and medication from the pharmacy, hairdressing, laundry and rental services.  The Cody family serves as an example of one of the many wealthy to middle class families that would take trips to Battle Creek Sanitarium to get the latest and greatest medical practices and therapies.

While Cody’s family often stuck to their routine, the weekly bills display a variety of different treatments, exams, services, and other miscellaneous items that could contribute more information concerning Battle Creek’s role in health care reform. For example, sections on the bills are indicated for specific food regiments that would need to be carried out for the individual such as extra meals or dietary restriction that were extravagant and would require an extra charge to the customer. The Battle Creek Sanitarium was one of the first establishments to introduce the idea of vegetarianism and a played a role in the new lifestyle becoming so big in America.[5] “The American Vegetarian Society, the first organization of its kind in the US, aligned itself with social reform, including freedom from slavery, women’s liberation, peace and diplomacy, and economic equality.” [6]  Organization members drew connections between a meat-based diet and violence or aggression, making it unsuited with nonviolence and equality. However majority of the nation were meat eaters, so new products were make to draw in societies elite with the new and improved health reforms. Rebranding the image took hold and Kellogg was able to maintain his status as elite health reformer. Harvey Kellogg, through his work at Battle Creek Sanitarium, developed meat substitutes that won over converts to vegetarianism and created a new market.

According to Jackson, at this point in time vegetarianism had found a place within society and was becoming a more widespread idea of health, in part due to the association with Battle Creek as well as Kellogg’s inventive new vegetarian meat substitutes. It is important to keep in mind the price of Kellogg’s inventive new diet and the demographic of customers who could afford to purchase the latest health reform diets.

Along with life advice on food health, Battle Creek offered a variety of services and opportunities to learn how to live the healthiest life. Veit compares Battle Creek to The Life Extension Institute, whose medical unit held a strong belief in preventative exams as the best way for people to access their health.[7] It was through its influence that The Battle Creek Sanitarium played such a large role in the vegetarian wave and healthcare reform. Southwestern Special Collections has a collection of artifacts from past president C.C. Cody’s stay that could aid historians in understanding the role that the sanitarium played in the reform. Considering these items as a whole provides information on a single individual’s stay and experience at The Battle Creek Sanitarium however, C.C. Cody’s bills offer a different prospective on the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the people it served.

Marissa Irvin

irvinm@southwestern.edu



[1] Battle Creek Sanitarium, “Collection of Bills from C.C. Cody's Stay at Battle Creek Sanitarium,” Digital Texas Heritage Resource Center, accessed April 11, 2016, https://texasheritage.omeka.net/items/show/2324.

[2] J. H. KELLOGG M.D., The Battle Creek Sanitarium System : History, organization, methods (Battle Creek, Mich. : Gage Printing Co., printer, 1908).

[3] Frink SERVER, "Historical Currency Conversions,", accessed April 12, 2016, https://futureboy.us/fsp/dollar.fsp.

[4] Battle Creek Sanitarium, The way out of invalidism & inefficiency.., 1st ed. (Battle Creek Sanitarium Press: Battle Creek Sanitarium Press, 1905)

[5] Adam D Shprintzen and PIERRON IVONNE, The vegetarian crusade: the rise of an American reform movement, 1817-1921(United States: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

[6] Kathy Merlock Jackson, "The vegetarian crusade: the rise of an American reform movement, 1817-1921 Adam d.shprintzen. Chapel Hill: university of North Carolina press, 2013," The Journal of American Culture 39, no. 1 (March 2016), 10.1111/jacc.12510.

[7]H. Z. Veit, "‘Why do people die?’ rising life expectancy, aging, and personal responsibility," Journal of Social History 45, no. 4 (April 16, 2012), 10.1093/jsh/shr155.