Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Trall, Dr. Russell Thacher (1812–1877)
Author:
Aspiz, Harold
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Dr. Trall, a hydropathic physician, established the first water-cure establishment in New York City (1844) and in the 1850s—when the water-cure fad crested—became "the high priest" of the water-cure system (qtd. in Aspiz 44). He wrote some thirty books on a broad range of health reform topics, integrating the principles of hydropathy with those of other hygienic and reformist cults; edited Fowler and Wells's Water-Cure Journal and other periodicals; and headed the coed drug- and alcohol-free New York Hygieo-Therapeutic College—a gathering place for reformist intellectuals. His career was involved with Fowler and Wells, who published his books and sponsored many of his lectures.

Although unsympathetic to the extremism of the "cold-water worshippers" (qtd. in Aspiz 46), Whitman shared many of Trall's interests: the need for clean water, pure food, fresh air, and personal hygiene; opposition to alcohol and drugs; and advanced views on women and sexuality. Whitman was familiar with Trall's work. He reviewed Trall's Family Gymnasium (1857) and his manuscript notes on physique are derived, in part, from Trall's writings. Trall was assistant editor for Fowler and Wells's Life Illustrated in 1855–1856, when Whitman wrote several man-about-town essays for that journal.

Bibliography

Aspiz, Harold. Walt Whitman and the Body Beautiful. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1980.

Logan, Marshall Scott. "Hydropathy, or Water Cure." Pseudo-Science and Society in Nineteenth-Century America. Ed. Arthur Wrobel. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1987. 74–99.

Stern, Madeleine B. Heads & Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1971.

Whorton, J.C. "Russell Thacher Trall." Dictionary of American Medical Biography. Ed. Martin Kaufman et al. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1984. 751.


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