The Hill is Residence | Lost Capitol Hill: Vapor Baths in the Capitol

I have beforehand penned about how the Capitol was applied (and abused) for personal business. However, identifying that an entrepreneur had set up store in the sub-basement to give Congressmembers (and other folks) vapor baths stunned me a bit.

Boyd Reilly was born
in the early 1780s in Ireland. He came to the United States as a
younger gentleman, settling in Pennsylvania. He was naturalized in 1805,
married and experienced kids. In the 1830s, Reilly invented a new way of
giving vapor baths. Applying perhaps harmful gases to the pores and skin of
sufferers experienced been made use of for some time, and was regarded treatment method
for all types of ailments, but Reilly’s apparatus permitted for
“irrespirable gases [to] be used to the body in a recumbent
posture, and with enough stability to the patient and attendants
in opposition to the introduction of the vapor or gas into the lungs.”

In small, harmful
vapors could be utilized without the need of killing either the affected individual or the
individuals supplying the cure.

Although Reilly was
flawlessly delighted to set up shop and treat patients, the actual income
would occur from a govt contract. His 1st try came in
1836, and was voted down instantly. In 1838, a bill instructing the
United States to acquire “the perpetual right to use his enhanced
apparatus” was launched, and a decide on committee was appointed to
examine Reilly’s apparatus. Representative Alexander Duncan of Ohio
drew the quick straw and was put in cost of composing the report. He
was really enthusiastic, if slightly wordy:

Your committee confidently consider that the use of the pungent gases, applied by suggests of this enhanced apparatus, will be admirably tailored to the therapy of a great portion of the ailments to which persons in the military and naval services of the United States are liable, and they slender will, in the close, prove the most speedy, cost-effective, safe, and pleasurable mode of remedy in all cutaneous ailments, which are various and frequently obstinate of cure in those exposed to the responsibilities, hardships, and privations of the camp and the navy, as well as illnesses of a rheumatic character, and these of a congestive variety, popular to the soldier and the sailor.

There adopted some twenty pages of laudatory prose from a variety of users of the armed forces, which include Joseph Lovell, surgeon normal of the US army, whose portrait can be found over. However for Reilly, this was not sufficient. About six months afterwards, with just about no discussion, the invoice was voted down and the inventor was pressured to fend for himself. 4 decades later on, he was in enterprise, both equally providing his baths as properly as looking at his sufferers in his offices near 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW or “in the chamber of the sick” as his ad ran.

In 1843, his case
was taken up yet again in Congress, this time passing the Senate, but
would seem to have died in the Property. Reilly then departed for a grand
tour of the “Old Environment,” such as a prolonged sojourn in the
Turkish empire. He would lecture about what he had realized a selection
of times in 1846.

Ad for Reilly’s providers in the Capitol, posted August 17, 1852 in the Washington Day by day Union (LOC)

6 a long time later on, he was back again to vapor baths. His advertisement however promoted his baths and promised that they also prevented cholera, but most importantly indicated that the remedy could now be taken in the Capitol itself. The actual location was given with the a bit cryptic “See entrance in rear of fountain,” i.e. on the west front, the central portion, in the sub-basement and in the vicinity of the Tripoli monument.

His adverts continued to look often in D.C. papers until 1854, when they abruptly disappeared, along with Reilly’s identify, from the historical history. Steam vapor baths, having said that, ongoing to be utilised nicely into the 20th Century, but have given that long gone the way of Mr. Reilly.

Melinda Krah

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