Finishing Nature: Harmonizing Bodies and Environments in Late-Nineteenth-Century California

The climate of a place, considered in relation to its influence on health and disease, may be said to be, the impression produced on the human body by the superincumbent atmosphere, according to the extent to which it is charged with heat, moisture and electricity; its purity, pressure, and the amount of ozone which it may contain; the force and direction of the prevailing winds, and the annual rain fall—all of which circumstances are greatly modified by the physical conformation of the locality, its latitude and longitude, its aspect, the geological formation of the soil, the properties of the waters, the altitude and position of the nearest mountain ranges and its situation in reference to the ocean.
California State Board of Health, 1871
THE ENVIRONMENTAL orientation of nineteenth-century medical reports is, at first, jarring to a modern reader. After all, contemporary medicine does not much concern itself with the landscape. Physicians generally confine themselves to the terrain of the human body, while the natural environment is left to a host of other disciplines. Yet this narrowing of professional perspective and the intellectual parsing of environment from human bodies is largely a product of the early twentieth century. In contrast, nineteenth-century understandings of health required physicians to pay close attention to multiple factors that might generate disease, but particularly important was the relationship between an individual’s body and the surrounding landscape.

For nineteenth-century Americans, bodies were themselves barometers of place. Euro-Americans evaluated new landscapes not only in terms of their resource potential or aesthetic qualities, but through their effect on health. And until the mid-twentieth century, the movement of white Europeans into new areas of the world was accompanied by, in the words of African historian Dane Kennedy, a “real and serious sense of dislocation and vulnerability.”[1] Whenever Europeans moved into new environments, they perceived the land as threatening to their physical and racial selves, and it is this sense of physical vulnerability that I want to recapture within the history of California and the Far West. The process of adjusting, both psychologically and materially, to a new environment always took time. Of course, unlike Africa, California is located entirely within the “temperate zone” cartographically speaking, a region to which Euro-Americans generally felt themselves well suited. But to speak of the entire continent as a kind of “neo-Europe” can serve both to naturalize Euro-American expansion and to obscure the multiple environments within regions, some of which were decidedly more “temperate” than others. In any more detailed reading of the North American continent, certain regions stood out as places in which neither the climate nor landscape appeared auspicious for white settlement. California’s Central Valley was one such place. As one nineteenth-century observer noted, “Few will ever permanently live in the interior of California that can help it.”[2] And while California may not have raised the same level of fears that southern Africa or the Caribbean did, we should not then assume that mid-nineteenth century migrants from eastern to western North America understood their own relocation in trivial terms. The focus on health thus helps to place the regional history of California within a larger transnational history of European settlement and colonization.[3]

The existence of settler anxieties about their own health raises broader questions about the paradigms of conquest and domination that have dominated the environmental history of the western United States. If white Americans did not see themselves as clearly separate from the landscape but as at least partially subject to it, the very concept of the domination of nature is called into question.[4] Even in a place such as the Central Valley of California, a region well known for the scale and speed of the changes wreaked upon it in the wake of white settlement, concerns over health and sickness sparked debates about the suitability of white bodies to their new home and the proper modes of settlement in a strange country. Many immigrants to the West Coast were quite conscious of the role of American settlement in transforming the local environment, often for the worse. Undoubtedly the seeming abundance and beauty of the California environment coupled with its astoundingly rapid transformation made the American impact here starkly evident. And, at least in the early stages of settlement, white Americans could not always assume the success of their own social and environmental project.

In that space of cultural uncertainty and physical vulnerability, many settlers believed that white dominance of the region ultimately would hinge on their ability to read and to adapt to, rather than simply to conquer, the nature that they encountered. Doctors in particular offered a pointed critique of the environmental changes underway in California, a critique that has received little attention from scholars. Medicine in nineteenth-century California was about landscape as well as bodies, about modes of settlement as well as methods of healing, and many physicians argued that the careless pursuit of mining, agriculture, and irrigation were destroying the landscape and ultimately threatening the viability of white bodies in this new place. If white immigrants wanted to ensure their own health and well-being in California, many argued their actions would have to adhere to “natural” designs, or else they themselves would bear the physical consequences. What follows then is a cultural history of white colonization in California that focuses on settlers’ concerns with the environmental sources of disease. My interest here does not lie in comparing nineteenth-century medical science with contemporary understandings of disease, but in recapturing understandings of medicine and health as important avenues of environmental perception. Part of my conclusion is that the rhetoric of conquest existed alongside and in tension with a fear of certain western environments and an early critique of human-induced environmental change.

Racial Health in the Far West

IT IS NOT HARD to find nineteenth-century accounts of California that emphasize its healthfulness. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to associating “California” with “health” that it is hard for us to imagine it otherwise. Boosterism does its work, and it has a particularly deep history in California. Within North America, California developed a reputation as a desirable landscape in the 1840s. In that decade several early explorers and travelers wrote glowing reports of the Pacific Coast that emphasized not only the resources available for exploitation but also the “salubrity” of the region.[5] Yet such accounts were motivated at least as much by desires for colonization as by empirical observation or experience, and many of those who came to California in the decade that followed offered much more tempered opinions. The first settlers to arrive in California in the wake of the Gold Rush were decidedly anxious about their new home.

Immigrant doctors were quick to attack the booster literature of the period for its inaccuracies. Jacob Stillman, a physician from New York state, joined the rush to California in 1849 and subsequently wrote, “I was deceived in some respects; the healthfulness and beauty of the country was exaggerated by the early explorers.” Dr. Thomas Muldrup Logan, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, who arrived in San Francisco in 1850, wrote after four months in the state, “As to the health and climate of California, I now speak from experience when I affirm that we have all been grossly deceived…. [Since my arrival] I have not passed one perfectly well or pleasant day.” Or as another physician and failed miner wrote, “Gold was not a sufficient recompense for disease and broken constitution.” Such negative assessments were seemingly borne out by the arrival of cholera in Northern California in 1850 and the rapid spread of both dysentery and malaria in the ensuing decade. Even the early reports of the California State Board of Health, first published in 1871, belie any consensus on the region’s healthfulness; instead the reports go to considerable length to lay out the diseases associated with every region of California, and often condemn the “extravagant” portrayals of the state’s healthfulness promulgated by certain “non-professional[s].”[6]

Europeans had long been concerned about their own health in new lands. The suitability of North America for European immigrants had been debated since colonial times. But while they had proven themselves capable of adapting to the climates of eastern North American, western environments remained something of a wild card at mid-century. At the same time, the growing crisis over slavery and the movement of white colonists into western North America intensified both popular and medical interest in the debate over races and their proper places. The regions west of the Mississippi were unfamiliar, often treeless and arid, and filled with non-white populations, and the difference of climate and environment in the western lands was a subject of constant commentary. Many feared that white settlement in the West would be marked by illness, racial degeneration, and high mortality. As late as 1874, one popular writer observed that it was “well known that some of the richest portions of the Great West are so fruitful of the causes of disease as almost to preclude settlement, especially by [white] Americans.”[7]

White concerns about California were exacerbated by their perceptions of Mexican society. They were unsure whether the small population and what they saw as the “backwardness” of Mexican California could be ascribed to the physical and moral inferiority of the inhabitants, or whether the climate and landscape were in some way responsible. An axiom of nineteenth-century thought held that warm climates inhibited the development of civilization, and Euro-Americans already were convinced that the climate of Latin America fostered degeneration and debility among their own kind. American Gold Rush accounts frequently made anxious reference to the degenerate Europeans and Americans encountered in Panama and Mexico, and similar concerns were expressed about some of California’s earliest white settlers. James Baker, a doctor who came to California from New Hampshire in 1853, anxiously read the bodies encountered in California with these concerns over degeneration in mind. “The people here were the first specimen of Yankeedom that we had seen since leaving New York or at least those who manifested in their appearance the healthy and active life which the Yankee is accustomed to do in our section of country,” Baker wrote. “If we found a man from the States on the Isthmus [of Panama] (where there were many) they had the appearance of sickness and debility about them. But at San Diego they seemed to be healthy.”[8]

Early white immigrants like Baker hoped that the environment of California would be more like Europe and eastern North America and less like Central America, but they were by no means certain of this. Over the course of the next three decades, California promoters, including some of the more boosterish doctors, gradually would turn the argument about degeneration around, claiming that the mild climate would produce an even healthier breed of Anglo-Saxons. But until at least the 1870s most remained concerned about the potential for racial degeneration and infertility in their new home. At best, they saw California as an experiment in racial health, and neither the social conditions nor the overall state of health in Gold Rush California had inspired confidence. As the editors of the California Medical Gazette observed in 1857, recent immigrants to California were “peculiarly susceptible of disease.” In 1871, after two decades of settlement, the State Board of Health acknowledged the lingering sentiment that whites were degenerating in their new home and called for further study.[9]

Given these concerns over environment and health, California physicians devoted considerable effort to correlating disease with race. The question was not simply whether the landscape was healthy, but for whom it might be so. “Fever and ague,” or malaria, was a disease strongly associated with tropical environments and one to which whites believed themselves particularly vulnerable, in contrast to blacks or Asians. One doctor noted the “comparative immunity of Chinese to intestinal troubles and malaria” as well as a “peculiar type of malarial fever in Bakersfield that afflicted only whites.” Another wrote that the Chinese “seem to be constituted something like the negro; they are not affected by the malaria as the Anglo-Saxons are.” Dr. Thomas Logan declared bluntly that “the susceptibility of the different races of mankind to all malarial fevers appears to be in a direct ratio to the whiteness of the skin”; elsewhere he noted that variola (smallpox) in California was particularly fatal among “Indians, native Mexicans, and mixed races,” while the Chinese seemed relatively unsusceptible. “Negroes,” Logan wrote, were liable to pneumonia, respiratory, and tubercular diseases but were comparatively exempt from malaria, diphtheria, and scarlatina. Still others commented on the susceptibility of Irish, (American) Indians, and “Spanish mixed bloods” to phthisis (consumption), and noted that those of foreign birth, with the exception of the Chinese, were more likely to suffer from insanity.[10] Frontier medicine at mid-century was both a racial and environmental science, and early indications were that at least some of the diseases prevalent in California were particularly dangerous for whites.

The health of white women received particular attention. Female bodies were seen as more permeable and even less cosmopolitan than those of men. Women were thus the most sensitive indicators of the environment’s effect on white immigrants. Moreover, avoiding racial degeneration depended upon the ability of female immigrants to produce able-bodied and unambiguously white children. Manifest destiny hinged not only on conquest and migration, but above all on healthy reproduction. And all diseases that women suffered raised concern because of their potential effects on fertility and childbearing. In the early 1850s, the army surgeon at Monterey remarked that the “diseases peculiar to women” were more common than any other malady in that region. James Hittel, in an otherwise promotional account of California, admitted that women’s diseases were common in the state, fertility was low, and women began to “wither” at the age of twenty-five. In the late 1850s, the state’s newly formed medical society had splintered over a paper on women’s health in California prepared by one of its members, Dr. Beverly Cole. Writing of the moral and physical degeneration of white women in the state, Cole asserted that “in no place of civilization do the causes [of ill health among women] exist or prevail to the same extent as in California.” Though many vigorously refuted Cole’s assertions, the debate over women’s health in California continued for the next three decades. The attention devoted to the issue only underscored the anxieties of early white immigrants.[11] The ways in which the California environment might alter their own bodies—and those of their children— was, at best, an open question.

Medical Topography

FOR THE MOST part, doctors withheld final judgments upon California, calling instead for further investigation. In fact, the formal study of the relationship between disease and landscape comprised a distinctive medical specialty in the nineteenth century, that of “medical topography.” As the term implies, medical topography sought to understand geographic locations through the diseases they produced and was deeply indebted to the work of Alexander von Humboldt. Considered the founder of modern geography, Humboldt worked in the first half of the nineteenth century and was perhaps best known for his attempt to understand the geographic distribution of plants by reference to measurable variables such as temperature and altitude. Mid-nineteenth-century medical topographers both drew on his thinking and copied his representational forms, taking it as their task to do for the mapping of disease what Humboldt had done for the mapping of vegetation.[12]

To do so, physicians needed to engage not only the medical sciences but also geography, meteorology, geology, and hydrology. Practicing medical topographers endeavored to record all the environmental factors that might affect health in a particular place, and the list was often long: Temperature and altitude were the most critical variables, but also relevant were water quality, the amount and intensity of sunlight, the timing and amount of rainfall, barometric pressure, wind direction, stream discharge, electrical air currents, soil types, dew point, the timing of frosts and spring growth, the temperature of wells, the timing of fish runs, and the occurrence of “causal phenomena”—such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, hailstorms, and meteor showers. In this world, the quest for health required not merely careful attention to the human body but “patient, plodding work with the thermometer, psychrometer, wind vane [and] rain gauge.”[13]

The massive immigration to California spawned by the Gold Rush occurred at a moment when the interest in medical topography was at its height in America. Between 1850 and 1854, the physician Daniel Drake issued his multi-volume medical treatise on the Mississippi Valley, Principal Diseases of the Interior of North America—which immediately became a seminal work in American medical topography and was favorably received in Europe as well. In 1857, Lorin Blodgett published his massive Climatology of the United States—the first comprehensive presentation and analysis of weather data in the United States, which physicians embraced as a crucial reference. Accordingly, the discourse and practice of medical topography significantly shaped professional understandings of California as a place. While not all nineteenth-century physicians shared the same level of interest in medical topography, it was an accepted, even prominent, branch of medicine, and the ability of the local environment to create and modify disease was a well-established tenet of both medical practice and popular understanding.[14] Good doctors in any new place were required to be keen environmental observers, and a few of California’s most prominent physicians also doubled as meteorologists—avidly collecting data on winds, rainfall, humidity, and temperature. The editor of the leading California medical journal urged that “every physician should train himself as an observer of meteorological phenomena. The thermometer, the hygrometer, the currents of wind and cloud, should be as familiar to him as the stethoscope, the microscope and the speculum.”[15]

In comparison to other western regions, a “scientific” medical topography developed quickly in California. Both the strangeness and the variability of the California landscape dictated the need for prodigious amounts of local medical study. In contrast to the more homogenous landscapes of the Middle West, California struck doctors as a place of many different environments, each one with its own effect on health. “If we would make our work and our statistics of any true or permanent value,” wrote Dr. Joseph Widney of Los Angeles, “climatic belt must be differentiated from, and contrasted with, climatic belt. It is only thus that our work will lead to a clear understanding of the varied pathological peculiarities of the State.”[16] While they recognized the potential of certain localities, particularly the coastal resorts of San Diego and Santa Barbara, to foster convalescence for certain types of patients, they felt that under no circumstances should such associations be generalized to the whole state. Instead, each region needed to be carefully studied for its own healthy and unhealthy qualities. Such a complicated landscape potentially shaped disease in unforeseen ways, while at the same time offering the potential for a complete environmental therapeutics. The variety of environments within short distances of one another meant that ailing bodies could be moved about more easily and more frequently—from the coast, to the valley, to the mountains—in order to foster the best health. A complicated geography offered not only a scientific challenge but also new possibilities of cure.[17]

In order to scientifically assess the relationship between climate and disease in California, doctors quickly divided the state into at least three regions for the purposes of medical study: the coast, the Central Valley, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. The coastal regions of California, and even the Sierra Nevada mountains, were increasingly promoted as healthful for white immigrants as the century progressed. But within that emerging medical geography, the Central Valley stood out as the least healthy region. Situated between the coastal mountains to the west and the Sierra Nevadas to the east, the Central Valley actually comprises two valleys, each named for its principal river—the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south. Yet few observers distinguished between them from the standpoint of health. Both doctors and lay observers understood the valley as a pathogenic space, and even California boosters were circumspect about the region. As Charles Loring Brace put it in his otherwise adulatory account of California, “The inevitable law of climate will force every one who can, to reside near the coast.” The valley’s principal town, Sacramento, had a reputation as a “sickly hole.”[18]

The problem of sickness in the valley was widely noted during the Gold Rush, as tens of thousands of immigrants, often already weak and in poor health, invaded the region. Travelers during the period considered illness almost a certainty for anyone who remained in the valley lowlands for any length of time. As one physician wrote in 1850, “I can conceive of no part of the Mississippi Valley more prolific of disease, than the valley of the Sacramento must be.” Newspapers from the period often mentioned the problem of disease in both the foothills and the valley, and diaries of the argonauts themselves confirm the presence and virulence of “fever and ague.” In his reconnaissance of the Central Valley for the U.S. Army in 1850, Lieutenant George Derby reported that at Sutter’s farm and all along the nearby Yuba River most of the occupants suffered from periodical fever, to which several deaths had been attributed. A U.S. Army post established in the eastern Sacramento Valley in 1850 was moved two years later on account of its unhealthiness. Dr. Jacob Stillman remarked that the settlement of Reading’s Springs (present-day Redding) in the Sacramento Valley was “little better than a fever hospital,” and soon after visiting the region he fell ill.[19]

Its latitude placed all of California well within the temperate zone, yet both physicians and travelers frequently equated the Central Valley with the tropics. Vincent Fourgeaud, a physician-turned-miner who came to California from St. Louis, wrote that the temperature of the valley was “unsurpassed by anything I had conceived of the heat of the tropics,” while an Army medical report published in 1856 referred to the “torrid heat” of the San Joaquin valley and the “burning rays which through several months unintermittingly pour down from a relentless sun.” Dr. Frederick Hatch, in an address to the local medical society, described the “vast interiour prairies” as having an “almost tropical temperature.” Summarizing the meteorological data for the region in 1859, Dr. Thomas Logan could not fail to note that summertime temperatures far exceeded anything encountered in his home town of Charleston. He conceded that the valley had “some features of a tropical rather than of a temperate climate.”[20]

The labeling of the Central Valley as “tropical” in the mid-nineteenth century was more than simply a rhetorical flourish; it expressed serious doubt about the region’s potential for white settlement. Heat threatened health, and Europeans had long associated warm places with early death. For those Europeans who found themselves in tropical climates, it was considered essential to adopt prophylactic measures and, above all, to avoid both vigorous exercise and hard labor. In such a climate, the (white) body was already “overstimulated,” and labor could easily push such people past their limits. Lieutenant George Derby was one of many who found himself incapacitated by the valley’s temperature. Surveying the area for the Army in 1850, Derby reported that his party “found the heat most intense during the mid-day—so much so that I was obliged to work merely during the morning and evening; but in spite of this precaution my assistant and two employees were taken sick, apparently from the effect of exposure to the sun.”[21]

The heat encountered in the valley was undeniable; however, many tried to argue that the region was not as inhospitable as the temperature alone might suggest. Longstanding fears of hot climates competed with desires for colonization, and immigrant doctors struggled to read the valley’s climate as habitable by whites even if not ideal. “It might very naturally be inferred by those familiar only with the hot weather of the Atlantic States, that the exaltation of temperature we have described would necessarily be attended by the most disastrous consequences to those exposed to its influence, and that, during some of the days of the past summer, the climate must have been almost uninhabitable by the Anglo-Saxon race,” wrote Dr. Frederick Hatch. “Yet such impressions are far from being justly entertained. … Even during the hottest days, with the sun pouring out the concentrated heat of the tropics, there is an elasticity and freshness maintained by the system.”[22]

Hatch was vague about the reasons that such heat was not oppressive or even prohibitive to “Anglo-Saxon” settlement. Others were more specific, arguing that the heat was mitigated by the dryness of the atmosphere, or by the rapid declines of temperature at the end of the day and the coolness of the evenings. Moderate nighttime temperatures gave the body a chance to rest and recover its balance, or so the thinking went. But the variation of temperature was itself a cause for concern, and in the valley temperatures could vary by as much as 40 degrees in a day. Such rapid changes in temperature could throw a body still further out of balance; the prevailing assumption held that equable temperatures generated the best health. Some argued that the valley’s large variations in temperature were an advantage, but others blamed the same phenomenon for widespread dysentery and even malaria. Still others argued that the problem posed by excessive temperature was only temporary and that settlers’ bodies would gradually adapt, becoming “seasoned” to the new environment.[23]

The quality of the valley’s atmosphere was another concern. Settlers feared the valley’s dense seasonal fogs which were believed to harbor the seeds of disease. Thomas Logan referred to the sometimes “vapory condition of the atmosphere,” which he associated with the tropics. More disturbing, however, were the strong winds that descended upon the valley from the north in summer and fall. Referred to as “poison-winds,” these northers could quickly desiccate crops and even kill small birds. Cows reportedly produced less milk, and sheep sheared during a “norther” quickly lost weight. From these effects on plants and animals, settlers and doctors inferred similar effects on human beings, linking the winds with rheumatism, neuralgia, sluggishness, depression, respiratory problems, and eye diseases.[24]

In the 1850s and 1860s, the environment of the Central Valley was known to produce high rates of dysentery and diarrhea and several variants of “malarial fever”—”intermittent,” “remittent,” “typho-malarial,” and “bilious.” Fever was the quintessential disease of the valley, so much so that during the Gold Rush travelers spoke of the “Sacramento fever,” and one observer referred to it as the “scourge” of the region. Though the mortality attributed to fever was not excessive in most years, illness nonetheless incapacitated much of the local population. In some localities, as much as three-quarters of the white population was believed to be affected by some form of fever. Patent medicine ads for ague tonics and liver pills filled the back pages of local agricultural publications. Many observers claimed that malaria was so common in certain localities that it often went unremarked. All agreed that the number of deaths attributable to fever conveyed “but a feeble idea of the amount of sickness, suffering, loss of time, of the impairment of health of body.”[25]

While malarial fevers occurred in many different regions, they were most strongly associated with tropical environments. Thus the presence of malaria in the valley, like the high temperatures, underscored the region’s disturbing tropicality. In addition to malaria, some associated the southern regions of the valley, albeit incorrectly, with dengue fever, another tropical disease.[26] Logan, a devotee of Humboldt, mapped an “epidemic” outbreak of malaria in California in 1858 in an attempt to correlate the disease with isothermal lines; the result was the demarcation of the valley as a zone of pathology, which was consistent with popular understandings of the region. But Logan remained defensive of his adopted home, arguing that the “tropical tendency” of the regional climate should not be misconstrued and that “in the aggregate of its constituents” the region was more temperate than tropical. Similarly, some physicians asserted that malaria in California was not endemic at all, but that the poison was acquired by immigrants while passing through Latin America where they were exposed to a “concentrated” form of the disease; the illness then manifested itself after their arrival in the state.[27]

In the eyes of most nineteenth-century immigrants, however, the environment of the valley explained the prevalence of disease. Throughout the nineteenth century, theories of contagion coexisted with a belief in the environmental causes of disease. Although much emphasis has been placed on the supposed “triumph” of germ theory in the last third of the century, most physicians in the period had no difficulty mixing nascent germ theories with longstanding environmentalist beliefs. In California, many of the leading physicians were outwardly hostile to an over-emphasis on germs as the causative factor in disease, and such theories were even slower to take hold among popular writers. Even those who professed a belief in germ theory frequently argued that environmental conditions either “multiplied” germs or brought them into activity. For the overwhelming majority, the source of endemic disease still lay in the local environment, at least until the last decade of the century.[28] And the unhealthful qualities of the Central Valley landscape were readily apparent; its strangeness and unwholesomeness impressed itself upon both American and European observers. The outer reaches of the valley, the areas furthest from the main rivers, were grasslands, with few trees. The eastern edge of the valley rose gradually up to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and was generally well-watered and quickly settled. The western portion of the valley was drier, particularly in the southern San Joaquin Valley, which was poorly suited to agriculture and sparsely populated. Yet it was the center of the valley, those lands near the major rivers, that generated the most comment. These were the most fertile and well-watered lands, and they were also the most sickly.

Much of the inner valley was a seasonal swamp. Prior to the re-engineering of the valley that settlers and engineers would undertake, rivers and streams were not confined to their banks but dispersed into a variety of sloughs and channels on the valley floor, the number and size of which varied seasonally. The major rivers, as well as many of their tributaries, were shallow, aggrading streams that easily overflowed their banks in many places, dispersing into multiple ill-defined and slow-moving channels as they approached their outlets. The volume of water in the rivers varied dramatically over the year, rising precipitously in the spring and early summer when the snows of the adjacent Sierra Nevada mountains melted, and then declining over the course of the long dry summer and fall. During the high-water season, flooding was a matter of course; river waters spread into any low-lying land. In years of above-average rainfall, most of the region, excepting only the highest points, would lie underwater for a period of days or even weeks, creating “one immense sea.” In localized patches, the land could remain flooded for a year or more. Historical estimates of swampland place it at one to two million acres, and accounts of the valley from the 1840s and 1850s repeatedly emphasize the confusing nature of the landscape, especially during the wet season, and the difficulty of moving through the swampy and overflowed environment.[29] In every sense, it was a disorderly and chaotic environment, even in the eyes of those who desperately wanted to colonize it.

Aside from the condition of the rivers, the feature that most caught the attention of European and American observers were the rushes that lined the streambanks and sloughs. Called “tulares” by the Spanish, the Americans referred to them as “tules” and equated them with common bulrushes familiar to those from the east. But they were struck and even appalled by the large size of these California plants, which could grow to heights of fifteen feet. A federal railroad surveyor described the tule as “a remarkable feature of the vegetable physiognomy of California,” while another California writer referred to the plant as “the great father of all the bulrushes.”[30] Tule plants covered much of the southern part of the San Joaquin valley, as well as the banks of the entire San Joaquin river, and they extended up the Sacramento River for thirty miles or so, typically covering a width of several miles on either side. In springtime, the tule marshes trapped floodwaters, and for miners and early travelers they were yet another obstacle to movement. River crossings were difficult to locate, and multiple crossings were often needed. The surveyor of San Joaquin county complained of the difficulty of his job in such a landscape: “It is almost one solid mass of tule, with frequent deep ponds and sloughs.”[31]

Swamps and tulelands were not merely an inconvenience to travel or a hindrance to agriculture, but a frightening source of disease. The chaotic, overgrown vegetation and meandering river channels surely called to mind the tropics and all their diseased associations. “Where the tule grows the rankest, we shall always find the most positive type of intermittent fever,” wrote Dr. Washington Ayer for the California Medical Society. During the Gold Rush, the physician James Tyson had referred to the tule marshes as “nurseries of disease,” and even those popular writers who boasted of California’s healthy climate often advised newcomers to avoid the riverbanks.[32] Thomas Logan, the reigning expert on the health of the Sacramento region and a committed medical topographer, described the Sacramento River and its surrounding tulelands as a continual source of pestilence: “The watercourses, in time of high water, do not run into but from the river, and consequently they carry off into the tulares, or marshes, and lowlands—animal, vegetable, and mineral matters capable of solution, suspension, transportation, and putrefaction. Hundreds of miles above the city of Sacramento, the tributaries of the river—every swollen brook, rivulet, and stream reach the larger affluents charged with these matters, which during its journey towards the south, under the influence of a hot sun, undergo great modifications. New chemical compositions and decompositions must occur…. Hence every condition exists favorable to the dissipation of deleterious gases arising from the putrescible matter in the water. …”[33]

What Logan was describing was the formation of miasma or “marsh poison.” Not a disease itself but a quality of particular environments, miasma was believed responsible for many different illnesses: malarial fever, typhoid and typho-malarial fever, diarrhea, dysentery, and diphtheria were among the most common—but even this was only a partial list.[34] While contemporaries debated the nature and cause of miasma, there was general agreement that miasmatic diseases were associated with low-lying, swampy places, as well as with fogs and bad smells. And the environment of the valley was undeniably conducive to the production of “miasmatic vapors.”[35] In the eyes of white settlers, heat, fog, winds, and miasma combined to make the valley the most physically threatening region of California.

Environmental Cure

LOCAL ENVIRONMENTS were critical to health, but they were not static. Environments were themselves subject to change—sometimes creating the conditions for health, and other times engendering new sources of disease. Disease itself was seasonal, and both physicians and lay people correlated the onset of certain disease-prone periods with annual changes in temperature, rainfall, and atmospheric conditions. Almost every observer noted that disease in the valley was more prevalent in late summer and fall, and one doctor went so far as to call autumn in California “the season of death.” Extreme environmental (and astronomical) events had still greater effects on health. Strong winds could bring disease into an otherwise healthy area, while floods might “wash” a disease-prone landscape and improve the health of its inhabitants. Some asserted that an epidemic of pneumonia invariably followed the onset of the valley’s north winds. Earthquakes were considered an even more “potent source of disease.”[36] As nature changed over time, so did bodies.

But environments could be altered through human agency as well. White settlers and physicians alike understood that the draining of swamps, the introduction of agriculture, and the building of towns typically improved the health of the land. Over time, the labor of bodies changed the surrounding nature. In settlers’ eyes, the environmental changes associated with the introduction of “civilization” could create the conditions for health on a more permanent basis. Here “civilizing” the landscape meant imposing the environmental forms associated with Euro-American dominance, including the establishment of “proper” towns and the pursuit of specific forms of agriculture. Many pointed out that urbanization, where accompanied by appropriate hygienic reforms, seemed to decrease disease. Physicians saw practical reasons for this, in that the spread of buildings covered up exposed soil and prevented dangerous exhalations. But they also argued that cities and towns represented simply a more advanced stage of settlement. Urbanization might improve the habits of the people as it improved the land. Thomas Logan had claimed as much about his hometown of Charleston, arguing that the “high state of social order” had noticeably diminished the intensity of the summertime heat as well as the city’s mortality rate.[37]

But the principal means of curing a pathological space in nineteenth-century America was through the introduction of Euro-American agriculture. By remaking the landscape into fields and orchards, American immigrants could render it not only more economically productive but also more healthy. Not surprisingly, the invocation of health was often another justification of appropriation, and conceptions of health merged conveniently with European landscape aesthetics. Pastoral landscapes were not merely pleasing to the colonizing eye, but better for the white American body, and here lay the greatest hope for the Central Valley. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, local agricultural publications frequently informed their readers that cultivation promoted health, and the crusade for both swampland reclamation and horticultural development in California repeatedly invoked concerns over bodies and health in addition to appeals to economic benefits. As a speaker before the State Agricultural Society argued, Anglo-American agriculture inevitably would improve health in the central California as it had in England, where intermittent fevers had disappeared “in consequence of the high cultivation and careful drainage of the land.”[38]

Hoping that the land itself could be adapted to the needs of their own bodies, white settlers consistently read any improvements in health as evidence that their occupation was enhancing the quality of the land. In 1873, the Second Biennial Report of the State Board of Health remarked somewhat hopefully on the “diminution in mortality” witnessed in the state over the previous two years, crediting this change to American settlement and “the progress of civilization.”[39] Physicians also noted several signs that local environments were improving. Dr. Joseph Widney credited white settlement with several improvements in the Southern California climate, including less variation in temperature, milder winds, and increased rainfall. In a discussion of the Valley’s poisonous north winds, a local physician observed that the “winds have lost much of their violence during the past twenty-five years. If so,” he surmised, “we may assume that the development of the country has already begun to change the character of these winds.” And while no one could deny the continuing prevalence of malaria in the Central Valley, many physicians argued from anecdotal evidence that the disease had become far less virulent. Popular understandings of the health effects of white settlement were similar. A local newspaper editor and booster of the Sacramento Valley wrote that concerns over health had initially retarded settlement in the region but that “now since people begin to live a little more like white folks, they find [the region] is not so sickly as they were at first led to imagine.”[40]

It is not assuming too much to read a certain anxiety behind such claims. After all, most of those who came to California were only too aware that their own future in the Far West, and that of their families, depended not only upon their ability to prosper economically but to maintain their own health.[41] Thus nineteenth-century discourse over health was marked by ambivalence. It asserted the benefits of white colonization while also acknowledging the vulnerability of the colonizers. Settlers looked to environmental improvement to make the landscape healthful, while acknowledging that they might be a race out of place in Central California. And while moral vigilance and American agriculture were certainly assets, they did not necessarily outweigh the effects of an unhealthy place. Those who moved into the Central Valley in the nineteenth century often did so despite their fears. “I doubt the wisdom of bringing my family to this confounded sickly place,” the engineer William Hammond Hall confided to his diary in 1878 as he contemplated a move to Sacramento. “Typhoid fever, intermittent fever of all kinds—the regular old ague appears to be not only prevalent but severe.”[42]

Evaluating Environmental Change

BUT THE NEED to adapt the land to its new residents raised its own troubling questions. Not all environmental changes resulted in health. To the contrary, some of the changes that Americans were making to the landscape had increased illness demonstrably. After only a decade in California, Thomas Logan offered a severe critique of human-induced environmental change on medical grounds: “Prior to 1858 the plains as well as the mountains of California were proverbial for their salubrity. … But how stands the case now? An extensive system of irrigation for mining and agricultural purposes has been resorted to—canals seven thousand miles in aggregate length have been dug to lead the water in innumerable serpentine courses from the rivers into the placers, and almost every valley that can be dammed on the line of these ditches has been appropriated as reservoirs to hold water. The action of an almost tropical sun upon the decaying vegetable matter that remains in these canals and reservoirs, when they have been drained … has been manifested in its effects. Not only in the plains and agricultural regions, but along the whole range of the foot-hills … nothing but fever at one time was heard of.”[43]

Logan’s critique of human changes to the land was not without precedent within his profession. In 1775 the preeminent physician in colonial America, Benjamin Rush, had emphasized the difference between clearing and cultivating the land: “While clearing a country makes it sickly, … cultivating a country, that is draining swamps, destroying weeds, burning brush, and exhaling the wholesome and superfluous moisture of the earth, by means of frequent crops of grain, grasses and vegetables of all kinds, renders it healthy.”[44] In this formulation, one kind of environmental transformation—clearing—yielded disease, while another—cultivation—yielded better health. Contemporaries understood clearing as an intermediate stage. Illness in such cases was the result of failing to properly complete the necessary work. It was not simply the presence of white settlers that improved the health of a region, but the particular changes that they imposed upon the land.

In this world, the appropriate measure of any environmental change was its adherence to natural, or divine, prescriptions for the region. As the Reverend E. R. Dille remarked before the California State Agricultural Society, “The fact is, that the farmer is given the high honor of finishing and improving the Creator’s work. He made the sea, and the mountains, and the heavens as he would have them, complete at first. But the earth, with its animal and vegetable tribes, he only made in the rough and left man to put on the finishing.” Or, as another agricultural writer asked rhetorically, “Nature or nature’s God has done ninety-nine parts towards making the valleys one of the richest agricultural districts in the world; can men supply the small remaining fraction?”[45] In the Central Valley, farmers saw wild oats and herds of elk, and concluded that nature had intended the landscape to support grain crops and stock. Implicit in immigrants’ attitudes toward the land was the belief that certain human-induced environmental changes were themselves already intended by God. Conversely, to leave certain environments as they were might itself be the more unnatural act. To the extent that human actions mimicked and extended natural processes, they were deemed appropriate, necessary, and even “natural.” Through careful attention to the natural qualities of the landscape and proper application of labor, culture would simply complete, or finish, what nature had begun.

White settlers both justified and critiqued environmental interventions by referring to nature’s designs. The rhetoric of following and completing nature appears throughout nineteenth-century materials on agriculture and even engineering. The State Agricultural Society explained that it had followed “the dictates and suggestions of nature” in fixing regional boundaries. Similarly, the civil engineer Calvin Brown offered a plan for the reclamation of the valley in 1862, arguing that the strength of his proposal lay in the fact that it was “but a simple imitation, though of course on a limited scale, of nature’s own questions.” And after the bad harvests of 1871, the Pacific Rural Press informed its readers that the “the failure of crops would have been much less frequent” if only “our grain farmers had followed the teachings of nature more closely.” As one fruit grower advised his colleagues, to ensure success California farmers needed “to imitate nature.”[46]

As these examples suggest, nineteenth-century concerns with completing and finishing nature were not simply a Darwinian-inspired attempt to naturalize all human actions. In fact, the language of finishing implied the opposite, that human beings could, in fact, operate in ways that nature did not sanction. The appropriate measure of any human action was its concordance with a pre-existing design. It was not merely a question of transforming the landscape in accord with Euro-American norms, but of reading and adhering to what settlers perceived as nature’s own intentions for a particular locality. And in a world where bodies and environments were tightly interwoven, a disruption of nature in one quickly would lead to its disruption in the other. In a disease-prone landscape such as that of the Central Valley, the need for immigrants to adhere to natural designs was, if anything, more imperative. While completing the landscape would make it healthier, failure to adhere to nature’s own plans would produce still more disease. A disregard of nature put vulnerable bodies at even further risk.

From the moment of his arrival, Thomas Logan was concerned with how the changes wrought by white settlement might already be affecting health. Though he was anxious to see white settlement as a positive influence, he and others noted many instances in which recent environmental changes seemed to correlate with increased disease. For instance, Logan hypothesized that the overturning of the soil to build levees around the city of Sacramento might have caused the initial outbreak of cholera in 1850. Then, in 1858, when malaria in the valley and foothills reached epidemic proportions, Logan attributed the region’s sickliness to the environmental changes associated with mining and farming. Many of his colleagues agreed. One pointed to the environmental disruption caused by construction of the Central Pacific Railroad in the southern San Joaquin Valley, which had left most of the laborers incapacitated by malaria. As the California Medical Gazette noted anxiously, “The spirit of progress … has unwittingly opened up new fields for the more extensive growth of this distemper.”[47]

But it was irrigation that caused the greatest concern in California. As irrigation expanded, so did concerns over disease. In retrospect, we can interpret this development by pointing to the creation of new mosquito habitat as irrigation canals were laid across poorly drained soils. Much of the land in the San Joaquin valley did, in fact, suffer from want of drainage. In many areas the soil is underlain by a layer of clay, and irrigation had noticeably raised the water table in some localities by the 1880s.[48] In addition, most irrigation canals were shallow, and ditch owners tried to retain water in their channels in order to water livestock, creating numerous additional places for Anopheles mosquitoes to breed. Contemporaries believed that ill-considered irrigation projects were indeed making the land more sickly, breeding not mosquitoes but miasma. A. G. Warfield, an engineer working for the state, surveyed settlers in the San Joaquin on the issue of irrigation in 1879, asking everyone about its effects on health. Several farmers told Warfield that the region had in fact become “more subject” to fever and ague since the introduction of irrigation. A California medical almanac published in the late 1870s informed its readers that irrigation often converted “perfectly salubrious” areas into “hot-beds for malarial poison, giving rise to ague, congestive chills, remittent or bilious fever, and typho-malarial fever,” and it warned that those who did the irrigating were the most likely to suffer.[49] Engineers, doctors, and ordinary farmers consistently observed and noted the link between environmental change and human health.

By the early 1870s, concerns that settlers were aggravating an already uneasy relationship between their bodies and the central California landscape were widespread, particularly within the medical community. Critics of irrigation interpreted the rising incidence of illness as a failure on the part of settlers to adequately respect and adhere to natural designs. As one resident doctor in the valley remarked, “As far as I have been able to learn, this was a healthy locality till the water of the river was turned out of its proper channel [emphasis added].” The Pacific Rural Press, a local agricultural publication, attributed the increase in disease to farmers’ failure to follow the seasonal patterns of nature and irrigate only in the cooler months. As one editorial put it, “Nature, as a general rule, is the best teacher.” Members of the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement, an association of physicians, hypothesized that improper farming practices might be contributing not only to the increase in malaria but to the rising incidence of sunstroke.[50] In the Third Biennial Report of the State Board of Health published in 1875, Thomas Logan—as secretary of that organization and now California’s most prominent physician—reiterated his earlier warnings about irrigation and then went on to indict both deforestation and mining for their effects on health in the Central Valley: “In no other country or epoch in the world’s history than in California at the present time has man’s action ever been known to change so rapidly or so permanently the face of nature. … Unless, therefore, some effort is made towards correcting and providing against the evils resulting … the most valuable portion of California will become more and more obnoxious to the health of the inhabitants during the autumnal months.”[51]

In Logan’s opinion, settlement might not necessarily bring health but its very opposite, particularly if nature’s patterns were not understood or adequately respected. In his words, both land and bodies were at risk from the effects of an “outraged nature.” Referring to the uncontrolled spread of irrigation across the valley, Logan warned that if Californians proceeded on their current course, they might well end up with an environment as sickly as that of certain sections of the South with their “notoriously miasmatic rice fields.”[52]

In the early 1880s, Logan’s colleague, Dr. Marshall Chipman, chaired the state medical society’s committee on medical topography. In that capacity, Chipman authored two lengthy pieces in which he described the deleterious effects of both mining and deforestation. Insisting that the long-term effects of environmental change in California were not simply economic or social but also medical, Chipman urged the profession to take a stand on the region’s nascent environmental issues. In contrast to the beneficial effects on health that “civilization” was supposed to bring, Chipman argued that changes in the valley environment had increased the extent and frequency of disease. He cited several local physicians who claimed that mining deposits engendered typhoid-like diseases that were more severe and less treatable than those experienced previously. Chipman indicted Californians, and miners in particular, for failing to follow natural dictates, blaming human “ignorance, improvidence and wastefulness” for deteriorating the “earth’s general salubrity.” “Array yourself in support of the beneficent processes of nature,” he urged his readers, and “discountenance this ruthless war against her sacred works.”[53]

How can we explain the origins of this medical critique of environmental change in the nineteenth century? Part of the explanation lies in the orientation and discourse of nineteenth-century medicine itself. This particular generation of doctors already engaged a language of “following” and “assisting” nature in their therapeutic practice. In the first half of the nineteenth century, alternative medical practices thrived while orthodox medicine underwent a major philosophical shift—away from abstract understandings of disease and highly intrusive therapies and toward a practice that emphasized empirical observation and the recognition of nature’s own ability to heal the body. Many physicians argued that the well-being of the body depended upon recognizing “the role of nature in healing disease and the limits of medical art.”[54] In this thinking, diseases ought be allowed to run their course; nature alone often could heal the body with only minimal intervention.

In their speeches and papers, many of California’s leading physicians strongly advocated this attitude of natural healing and “conservative medicine.” As one doctor reminded his colleagues in the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement, the physician was merely “the assistant of nature,” while another remarked that “as a profession we give too much medicine and rely too little upon the great natural forces which are constantly at work in organic life.”[55] In the place of intrusive practices such as bleeding and purging, California physicians were more likely to urge the moderate use of drugs and passive environmental cures, such as a change of climate or time spent out-of-doors. If anything, the controversial medical doctrine of “trusting to nature” was stronger in California than elsewhere, because the state’s physicians were so diverse in training and background and so far removed from the centers of medical orthodoxy. Yet doctors did not eschew intervention altogether. In fact, certain medical remedies, like certain environmental changes, might themselves be deemed “natural”; in good medical practice the boundaries between human and natural agency were, or at least should be, ambiguous. Thus California doctors typically argued for a therapeutic practice that was adapted to local environment conditions and that more closely followed nature’s dictates.[56]

Because physicians saw bodies as part of nature, they easily extended their arguments about heeding nature and minimizing intervention to the larger environment. The intellectual focus on both land and bodies, made most explicit in the field of medical topography, enabled physicians to connect environmental change quite concretely to human health. The environment was not, in their thinking, a realm distinct from human society but one that was intimately connected to the human body. Nineteenth-century physicians emphasized again and again that all organic life operated under the same natural laws. “Our profession,” wrote Thomas Logan, “[has] to do with all Nature.” Writing for the State Board of Health, Logan insisted that it was “only by the careful and comprehensive study of the laws of nature and the correlation of forces operating throughout the physical world, that the highest department of the physician’s art can be brought into operation.” Ultimately, it was only through understanding and operating “in harmony” with the larger natural world that human health could be ensured.[57]

In this thinking, the future of human beings in any region was closely interwoven with the development, or disturbance, of local animal and vegetable life. Changes in health were as likely to be correlated with temporal changes in the environment as they were with geographic locations. And a disruption of nature in one would lead to its disruption in the other. In this lay the medical critique of careless environmental transformation. But neither should a threatening and sickly landscape be left “incomplete.” Physicians recognized that new environments needed to be carefully studied, and then adapted to the bodily needs of their would-be colonizers. Yet understandings of health dictated that such adaptations should further, rather than radically alter, a larger natural design.


FOR NINETEENTH-CENTURY Americans, human bodies were not independent of the natural environment but continually permeated and changed by it.[58] Consequently, the colonization of western lands raised anew critical questions about the nature of racialized bodies, North American environments, and the relation between the two. Certain environments threatened particular kinds of bodies, even while the labor of bodies could, in turn, alter those same environments. The relationship between bodies and landscapes was reciprocal and dynamic. The challenge lay in harmonizing the two, for environmental changes would be registered, for better or for worse, in the health of local people.

Consequently, those who moved into the West struggled with their desire to transform the landscape for material gain on the one hand, and their desire to conform to nature on the other. Fitting into the landscape was the safest course, while altering the land often generated the greatest profits. It was through the discourse of finishing that American immigrants, including physicians, partially resolved the anxieties that their own mobility raised. The language of finishing helped to assuage concerns about the human place in an unfamiliar landscape by sanctioning certain kinds of environmental transformation while proscribing others. The prevalence of such thinking should cause us to question now standard interpretations of the nineteenth-century United States which assert that Euro-Americans in this period held an unmitigated confidence in their own technology and evinced little concern for the natural condition of the landscape, particularly in the American West. Similarly, we should question the extent to which white racial identity in earlier periods was rooted in the desire to conquer and subdue the external environment.[59] Of course nineteenth-century Americans believed in their own cultural and technological superiority, and they unquestionably engaged a rhetoric of environmental conquest in particular moments, but that was not the sum of their environmental, or their subjective, understanding. The discourse of colonization (and imperialism more generally) was never homogenous, and the desire for environmental conquest was more likely to find expression in literary and political rhetoric than in the professional correspondence of physicians or in the more prosaic materials that circulated within a place like the Central Valley of California.[60] What we learn from examining nineteenth-century discussions of health in California is that the rhetoric of conquest existed alongside and in tension with a knowledge of white immigrants’ own physical vulnerability and a recognition, however limited, of human connection with the land. For a moment, before whites understood themselves as “native” to the Far West, concerns over bodily health potentially constrained and channeled the process of environmental transformation, at least on the part of some. Immigrants saw themselves as subjects of their environment even as they subjected that environment to their own designs. Ultimately the “finished” landscape was less a symbol of conquest and domination than a sign of the synergism, in the most literal sense, between white Americans and their new home.

Was California somehow exceptional in this way? It may well be, as others have suggested, that settler societies generated the conditions under which the risks and costs of colonization were impossible either to ignore or to celebrate unreservedly.[61] And this was perhaps especially true in California, where settlement occurred at an unprecedented pace and the destructiveness of the mining industry was so alarmingly apparent. But California was ultimately less exceptional than part of a global colonial history, in which white settlement and resource extraction made painfully clear some of the human, as well as the environmental, costs of Euro-American “progress.”

In the end, however, nineteenth-century doctors had relatively little influence over the course of settlement in California. The reasons for this lay in the relative weakness of the nineteenth-century American state, particularly in the Far West, as well as in the weakness and disorganization of the medical profession itself, particularly in comparison to the power of capital and capitalist enterprise.[62] Despite their efforts, doctors had no broad authority to impose their environmental views. And by the end of the century doctors themselves would repudiate those understandings such as medical topography that integrated bodies with their environment. New medical discoveries, the forces of professionalization, and the early twentieth-century attack on alternative medical practices would push doctors to focus more and more of their attention on the body alone, often with unquestionable results.[63] And as the focus of doctors narrowed, the environment would become the domain of a host of other professions and sciences: agronomy, soil science, and hydrologic engineering, to name but a few. Professionalization would help to sever knowledge about the environment from knowledge about human health, locating them in different disciplines and institutions, making it even more difficult to draw connections between environmental change and changes in human health. Environmental history, in turn, would follow upon this trajectory—limiting itself to the study of non-human nature while excluding the body and medical history from its area of inquiry. Yet to understand environmental attitudes in the nineteenth-century requires that we reconnect medical and environmental history, that we consider health as well as capitalism, doctors as well as engineers, changes in human bodies as well as changes in non-human landscapes.

But this is not only a nineteenth-century story. The scientific relationship between human bodies and landscapes that medical topography had posited would, eventually, be rediscovered elsewhere—in the science of twentieth-century ecology and in corresponding ideas of “environmental health.” It would be the knowledge of ecology, in fact, that would underlie the seminal environmental work of the mid twentieth century—Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.[64] In that work Carson sought to popularize a new science that again linked human health to the surrounding landscape, arguing that radical changes in the environment—in this case, the massive introduction of organic chemicals after World War II—ultimately would be registered in the bodies of human beings. Thomas Logan would not have been surprised.

Linda Nash is an assistant professor of history at the University of Washington.


I would like to acknowledge Conevery Bolton Valencius, Adam Rome, members of University of Washington History Research Group, and anonymous readers for Environmental History for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.
1. Dane Kennedy, Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890–1939 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1987), 110.

2. Charles Loring Brace, The New West: or, California in 1867–1868 (New York: G.P. Putnam & Son, 1869), 45. For other work on European and American fears of new environments and disease, see Philip D. Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Warwick Anderson, The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health, and Racial Destiny in Australia (Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 2002); Mark Harrison, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment, and British Imperialism in India, 1600–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Alan Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Conevery Bolton Valencius, The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land (New York: Basic Books, 2002); and Conevery Bolton Valencius, “The Geography of Health and the Making of the American West: Arkansas and Missouri, 1800–1860,” in Medical Geography in Historical Perspective, Supplement no. 20 of Medical History, ed. Nicolaas A. Rupke (London: Wellcome Trust Center for the History of Medicine, 2000), 121–45. The term “neo-Europe” is from Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

3. On transnationalism, see Thomas R. Dunlap, Nature and the English Diaspora: Environment and History in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), and particularly Ian Tyrell, True Gardens of the Gods: Californian-Australian Environmental Reform, 1860–1930 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

4. With respect to the western United States, the most forceful statements of this idea come from Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon, 1985), and Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: Norton, 1987). More generally, see Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980). The source for the concept of domination as used by Worster in particular is Karl Marx, particularly as interpreted by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (1944; reprint, New York: Continuum Books, 1972). For recent work that challenges this generalization, see Richard W. Judd, Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), and Mark Fiege, Irrigated Eden: The Making of An Agricultural Landscape in the American West (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999).

5. Among the most influential reports were those of John Charles Frémont, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the year 1842, and to Oregon and Northern California in the years 1843–44 (Washington, D.C.: H. Polkinhorn, 1845); Notes of Travel in California; Comprising the Prominent Geographical, Agricultural, Geological and Mineralogical Features of the Country; also, the Route from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, Including Parts of the Arkansas, Del Norte, and Gila Rivers. From the official reports of Col. Fremont and Maj. Emory (New York: D. Appleton, 1849); Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast; A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea (1842; reprint, Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1964); and T. Butler King, Report of Hon. T. Butler King, on California (Washington, D.C.: 1850). On the phenomenon of health as a reason for migration to California see John E. Baur, The Health Seekers of Southern California, 1870–1900 (San Marino, Calif.: The Huntington Library, 1959).

6. J. D. B. Stillman, The Gold Rush Letters of J. D. B. Stillman (Palo Alto, Calif.: Lewis Osborne, 1967), 51; Thomas M. Logan, “Letters from California,” New York Journal of Medicine 13 (March 1851), 279; William M’Collum, California as I Saw It (1850; reprint, Los Gatos: Talisman Press, 1960), 133; California State Board of Health (hereafter CSBH), Fourth Biennial Report, for the Years 1876 and 1877 (Sacramento, 1877), 38.

7. On European concerns over racial fitness and the North American environment in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, see Karen Ordahl Kupperman, “Fear of Hot Climates in the Anglo-American Colonial Experience,” William and Mary Quarterly 41 (1984), 213–40; and Joyce Chaplin, Subject Matter: Technology, The Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1676 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001). On disease in the Mississippi Valley in the nineteenth century, see Erwin H. Ackerknecht, Malaria in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1760–1900, Supplement no. 4 to the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1945). For an expression of late nineteenth-century medical concerns over race and adaptation, see George W. Lawrence, “Report of the Committee on Climatology, etc., of Arkansas,” Transactions of the American Medical Association 23 (1872), 399. Quote is from Benjamin C. Truman, Semi-tropical California (San Francisco: A.L. Bancroft, 1874), 38.

8. On reasons for the small population of European descent in California during the Spanish and Mexican periods, see Daniel J. Garr, “A Rare and Desolate Land: Population and Race in Hispanic California,” Western Historical Quarterly 5 (April 1975), 133–48. On argonaut attitudes toward whites in Latin America, see Brian Roberts, American Alchemy: The California Gold Rush and Middle-Class Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 119–29. On temperate climates and “civilization,” see Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 537–50. On European fears of degeneration in hot climates, see Nancy Stepan, “Biological Degeneration: Races and Proper Places,” in Degeneration: The Dark Side of Progress, ed. J. Edward Chamberlain and Sander L. Gilman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985) 97–120; and Daniel Pick, Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Quotation from letter from John Baker to Julia Ann Baker, 20 September 1853, John W. H. Baker Letters, Bancroft Library, Berkeley [hereafter BL].

9. For boosters, see Brace, The New West, 367–69; R. W. C. Farnsworth, ed., A Southern California Paradise (Pasadena, Calif.: R.W.C. Farnsworth, 1883); P. C. Remondino, Longevity and Climate (San Francisco: Woodward & Co., 1890). For concerns over the disease “susceptibility” of whites, see California Medical Gazette 1 (January 1857), 323; CSBH, First Biennial Report, for the Years 1869 and 1870 (Sacramento, 1871), 2, 60. Also, Henry Gibbons, Sr., “Report on Practical Medicine,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1875–76 [6th] (Sacramento, 1876), 29.

10. King, Report on California, 275; Thomas M. Logan, “Report on the Medical Topography and Epidemics of California,” Transactions of the American Medical Association 16 (1865), 545, 550; CSBH, Second Biennial Report, for the Years 1871, 1872, and 1873 (Sacramento, 1873), 67, 155; CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 241; E. T. Wilkins, “Insanity in California,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1872–1873 [3rd], 144.

11. U. S. Congress, Senate, Statistical Report on the Sickness and Mortality in the Army of the United States Compiled from the Records of the Surgeon General’s Office; Embracing a Period of Sixteen Years, from January, 1839, to January, 1855, 34th Cong., 1st sess., 1856, S. Ex. Doc. 96, 442; J. S. Hittel, Resources of California, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: A. Roman and Co., 1867), 368; Horatio R. Storer, “Female Hygiene,” 6, included in CSBH, First Biennial Report; Charles Nordhoff, California for Health, Pleasure, and Residence (New York: Harper, 1882), 166. On women’s health and fertility, see also, CSBH, First Biennial Report, 6; J. H. Stallard, Female Health and Hygiene on the Pacific Coast (San Francisco: Bonnard & Daly, 1876), 5. On positive effects of climate on fertility, Remondino, Longevity and Climate, 20; James Blake, “On the Climate and Diseases of California,” American Journal of the Medical Sciences 24 (1852), 53–64.

12. On medical geography and medical topography generally, see Rupke, Medical Geography in Historical Perspective; Frank A. Barrett, “Daniel Drake’s Medical Geography,” Social Science of Medicine 42 (1996), 791–800; Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease, 27–65. On Humboldt’s influence, see M. Nicolson, “Alexander von Humboldt, Humboldtian Science and the Origins of the Study of Vegetation,” History of Science 25 (1987), 167–94; Nicolaas A. Rupke, “Humboldtian Medicine,” Medical History 40 (1996), 293–310.

13. Thomas M. Logan, “Contributions to the Medical History of California,” California Medical Gazette 1 (October 1856), 166–97. Quote is from CSBH, Third Biennial Report, for the Years 1874 and 1875 (Sacramento, 1875), 14.

14. On physicians embrace of Blodgett, see for example, Transactions of the American Medical Association 23 (1872), 399. On acceptance of medical topography, see “Medical Topography in California,” California Medical Gazette 2 (October 1869), 33; and Rupke, “Humboldtian Medicine.”

15. Quote is from “Climate and Disease,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 14 (February 1872), 421; J. B. deC. M. Saunders, Humboldtian Physicians in California (Davis: University of California, Davis, 1971). See also the description of the meteorological interests of Dr. Henry Gibbons, one of the era’s most prominent physicians, and his brother William Gibbons, in Henry Harris, California’s Medical Story (San Francisco: J.W. Stacey, 1932), 328. Unquestionably the most influential figure was Dr. Thomas Muldrup Logan, the first secretary of the State Board of Health, a professor at the University of California, a key figure in the California Medical Society, and also a president of the American Medical Association. Logan came to California with an established interest in climatology and the environmental basis of disease. He brought with him meteorological instruments on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and immediately commenced recording weather statistics at Sacramento. As a leading figure in the State Medical Society, and later as the first secretary of the State Board of Health, he lobbied strenuously for more meteorological study and also collected the extensive data for Sacramento and its surrounding area. For his meteorological work, see California Surveyor-General, Annual Report 1861–62 (Sacramento, 1862) and Thomas M. Logan, “Contributions to the Physics, Hygiene and Thermology of the Sacramento River,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 7 (1864), 145–51. On Logan’s background, see J. M. Toner, “Life and Professional Labors of Thomas Muldrup Logan, M.D., of California,” Transactions of the Medical Society of State of California [6th] (1875–1876), 136–143; Guy P. Jones, “Thomas M. Logan, M.D., Organizer of California State Board of Health,” California’s Health 2, 15 March 1945, 129–33.

16. J. P. Widney, “Report of Committee on Medical Topography, Meteorology, Endemics, and Epidemics,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, Session of 1889 [19th], 15–16.

17. CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 29.

18. On the Central Valley as generally unhealthy, see Kenneth Thompson, “Insalubrious California: Perception and Reality,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59 (March 1969), 50–64. The phrase “sickly hole” is from Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement (hereafter SSMI), “Minutes,” vol. 3, 17 March 1893, 325, California State Library, Sacramento (hereafter CSL).

19. Quote from James L. Tyson, Diary of a Physician in California, Being the Results of Actual Experience Including Notes of the Journey by Land and Water, and Observations on the Climate, Soil, Resources of the Country, Etc. (1850; reprint, Oakland, Calif.: Biobooks, 1955), 66. For problems of disease and sanitation in the mining camps, see J. D. B. Stillman, “Observations on the Medical Topography and Diseases (especially Diarrhoea) of the Sacramento Valley, California, during the years 1849–50,” New York Journal of Medicine 13 (July 1851), 296, reprint, BL; Thomas Kerr, “An Irishman in the Gold Rush: The Journal of Thomas Kerr,” ed. Charles L. Camp, California Historical Society Quarterly 8 (June 1929), 180–82; also, several undated newspaper quotes appear in Thomas M. Logan, “Malarial Fevers and Consumption in California,” in CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 117–18. For disease in “lowlands,” Dr. J. Praslow, The State of California: A Medico-Geographical Account (1857; reprint, San Francisco: John J. Newbegin, 1939), 58–59; George H. Derby, “The Topographical Reports of George H. Derby,” part 1, ed. Francis P. Farquhar, California Historical Society Quarterly 11 (June 1932), 110; Senate, Sickness and Mortality, 449; Stillman, Gold Rush Letters, 296.

20. Victor J. Fourgeaud, “Two Fourgeaud Letters,” ed. John Francis McDermott, California Historical Society Quarterly 20 (June 1941), 119; Senate, Sickness and Mortality, 445; Frederick W. Hatch Sixth Anniversary Address before the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement (San Francisco: Joseph Winterburn & Company), 8, BL; Thomas M. Logan, “Report on the Medical Topography and Epidemics of California,” Transactions of the American Medical Association 12 (1859), 83, 86. For other references to the region’s tropicality, see Derby, “Topographical Reports,” part 1, 111–12; W.P. Gibbons, “Notes on Topography, and on the Distribution of Plants in California,” in CSBH, Tenth Biennial Report, 1886–1888 (Sacramento, 1888), 184.

21. Brace, The New West, 45; Thompson, “Insalubrious California.” On labor in tropical climates, see James Johnson and James Ranald Martin, The Influence of Tropical Climates on European Constitutions, 6th ed. (New York: Samuel S. and William Wood, 1846), 591. On white vulnerability in the tropics, Warwick Anderson, “The Trespass Speaks: White Masculinity and Colonial Breakdown,” American Historical Review 102 (December 1997), 1343–70; Anderson, Cultivation of Whiteness, chap. 1. Quote is from Derby, “Topographical Reports,” part 1, 111–12.

22. F. W. Hatch, “On the Climate of the Valley of the Sacramento, California,” The New York Journal of Medicine 15 (July 1855), 18.

23. Senate, Sickness and Mortality, 445; CSBH, Second Biennial Report, 158. Logan, “Letters from California,” (March 1851), 282. On temperature and malaria, “What is Malaria?,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 14 (November 1871), 283. On “seasoning,” Settlers’ Experience in Kern County, California as Related by Themselves with Advice to Newcomers (Bakersfield, Calif., 1894), 10; and CSBH, Ninth Biennial Report, 1884–1886 (Sacramento, 1886), 71.

24. Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1865), 536, 539; J. H. C. Bonte, “The Northerly Winds of California,” California State Agricultural Society, Transactions 1881 (Sacramento, 1881), 201–13; CSBH, Eighth Biennial Report, 1882–1883 (Sacramento, 1884), 206; George H. Derby, “The Topographical Reports of George H. Derby,” part 2, ed. Francis P. Farquhar, California Historical Society Quarterly 11 (September 1932), 248; H. W. Harkness, “Northers, or North-West Winds of California,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 11 (May 1869), 545–50; CSBH, Fourth Biennial Report, 57; Pacific Rural Press (San Francisco), 19 June 1880, 405. On antebellum attitudes toward the atmosphere and disease, see Valencius, Health of the Country, 109–32.

25. U.S. War Department, Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Made under the Direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853 [6]. (Washington, D.C.: A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1855–61), 6:26; CSBH, Fifth Biennial Report for the Years 1878 and 1879 (Sacramento, 1879), 16; Pacific Rural Press, 7 March 1874, 151.

26. Abbot Kinney, Eucalyptus (Los Angeles: B.R. Baumgardt & Co., 1895), 132.

27. For map, Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1859); Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1865), 539; J. Campbell Shorb, “The Miasmatic Diseases of California,” California Medical Gazette 1 (September 1868), 54.

28. For doubts on germ theory, see CSBH, Sixth Report for the Year Ending June 30, 1880 (Sacramento, 1880), 31; SSMI, “Minutes,” vol. 2, 19 October 1880, CSL; Ibid., 19 October 1881; Ibid., 19 August 1884.

29. “Immense sea” is from Edward Belcher, Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, Performed in Her Majesty’s Ship Sulphur during the Years 1836–1842 (London: Henry Colburn, 1843), 2:123–24. On descriptions of swampland, Derby, “Topographical Reports,” part 1, 108; Ibid., “Topographical Reports,” part 2, 261. For a recent summary of swampland estimates, see Phyllis Fox, “Rebuttal to David R. Dawdy Exhibit 3 in Regard to Freshwater Inflow to San Francisco Bay Under Natural Conditions,” November 1987 (California Water Resources Control Board, Bay-Delta Hearings, State Water Contractors Exhibit No. 276), 9–20, MS 87/3, Water Resources Control Archives, Berkeley, California.

30. U.S. War Department, Reports of Explorations and Surveys, 2:191–92; Mary Cone, Two Years in California (Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Co., 1876), 111.

31. Derby, “Topographical Reports,” part 1, 115–18; California Surveyor-General, Annual Report, 1855–56 (Sacramento, 1856), 240.

32. Washington Ayer, “Topography and Meteorology,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1880–1881 [11th] (Sacramento, 1881), 43; Tyson, Diary of a Physician, 66; Titus Fey Cronise, The Natural Wealth of California (San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft & Co., 1868), 384–85.

33. Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1865), 509.

34. Malaria, literally “bad air” in Italian, was used interchangeably with “miasma” by some writers, whereas others used malaria to designate the disease and miasma to refer to the cause. There was considerable confusion on this issue in both the medical and popular literature of the mid-nineteenth century. On California diseases attributable to miasma, see CSBH, Eighth Biennial Report for the Years 1882 and 1883 (Sacramento, 1884), 90.

35. On the theory of miasma generally, see Caroline Hannaway, “Environment and Miasmata,” in Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, ed. W. F. Bynum and Roy Porter (New York: Routledge, 1993), 1:292–308; Margaret Humphreys, Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 30–48. For an important nineteenth-century source, see John MacCulloch, An Essay on the Remittent and Intermittent Diseases, including, generically Marsh Fever and Neuralgia. (Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1830).

36. Stillman, Gold Rush Letters, 73; Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1859), 113; Thomas M. Logan, Medical History of the Year 1868, in California (Sacramento: SSMI, 1868), 10.

37. Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1865), 106; Thomas M. Logan, “On the Climate and Health of Charleston,” Southern Literary Journal 2 (July 1836), 348–56.

38. Stillman, “Medical Topography and Diseases of the Sacramento Valley,” 297; E. R. Dille, “Annual Address Delivered before the Agricultural Society,” California State Agricultural Society, Transactions 1883 (Sacramento, 1883), 280.

39. CSBH, Second Biennial Report, 38–39. Also CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 29.

40. J. P. Widney, “Climatic Changes Which Man is Working in Southern California,” The Southern California Practitioner 1 (October 1886), 389–93; Bonte, “The Northerly Winds,” 213; SSMI, “Minutes,” vol. 4, 21 February 1899, 141, CSL; Will S. Green, The History of Colusa County, California and the General History of the State (Sacramento: Sacramento Lithograph Co., 1950), viii (reprinted from Hutchings Illustrated California Magazine 1 (April 1857), 493–96). Also, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences (San Francisco), 4 January 1855, 1.

41. Truman, Semi-tropical California, 38.

42. William Hammond Hall Diary, 3 September 1878, box 1137/1, William Hammond Hall Papers, CSL. Hall himself became quite interested in issues of local health and sanitation. See the materials in box 1/4, MS 913 (William Hammond Hall Papers), California Historical Society, San Francisco.

43. Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1859), 94–95.

44. Benjamin Rush, Medical Inquiries and Observations (Philadelphia: T. Dobson, 1797), 2:266.

45. E.R. Dille, “Man’s Sovereignty Over Nature,” California State Agricultural Society (CSAS) Transactions, 1883 (Sacramento, 1885), 281; Cone, Two Years in California, 103. Such a view was consistent with American agrarianism as it had been formulated by Thomas Jefferson in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the center of Jefferson’s world view had lain the Enlightenment concept of nature: the sense that the universe had a harmonious design and that human beings had an appointed role in a grander natural scheme. See, for instance, Jefferson’s letter to John Adams, 11 April 1823, cited in Charles A. Miller, Jefferson and Nature: An Interpretation (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 32.

46. CSAS, Transactions 1880 (Sacramento, 1881), 267; Calvin Brown, “On the Utilization of Water, and its Sources, in California,” California Surveyor-General, Annual Report 1861–62 (Sacramento, 1862), 33; Pacific Rural Press, 24 June 1871; California State Board of Horticulture, Third Biennial Report (Sacramento, 1888), 186; California State Board of Horticulture, Report 1881–82 (Sacramento, 1882), 25.

47. Thomas M. Logan, “Letters from California,” New York Journal of Medicine 13 (May 1851), 423; Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics,” (1859), 94–95; W. P. Gibbons, “On Forest Culture as a Prophylactic to Miasmatic Diseases,” CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 151; W. P. Gibbons, “Report on Indigenous Botany,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1878–1879 [9th] (Sacramento, 1879), 140; J. Campbell Shorb, “The Miasmatic Diseases of California,” California Medical Gazette 1 (July 1868), 5.

48. Carl Ewald Grunsky, “Irrigation Near Fresno, California,” Water-Supply and Irrigation Papers, No. 18 (Washington, D.C.: USGS, 1898); Ronald Loren Nye, “Visions of Salt: Salinity and Drainage in the San Joaquin Valley, California, 1870–1970” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Santa Barbara, 1986), 67–107.

49. A. G. Warfield, “Field Notes,” February-March 1879, box 20, book 30, State Engineering Department/William Hammond Hall papers, Acc. 91-07-04, California State Archives, Sacramento, quote on 11; The Family Health Annual (Oakland, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1876), 19, BL.

50. H. S. Orme, “Irrigation—Its Influence on Health,” in CSBH, Eighth Biennial Report, 55; Pacific Rural Press, 24 June 1871, 388; J. P. Widney, “Irrigation and Drainage,” in CSBH, Seventh Biennial Report, 1880–1881 (Sacramento, 1882), 104; Kenneth Thompson, “Irrigation as a Menace to Health in California,” Geographical Review 59 (April 1969), 195–214; SSMI, “Minutes,” vol. 3, 19 October 1886, p. 38, CSL.

51. Logan, “Malarial Fevers and Consumption in California,” in CSBH, Third Biennial Report, 118.

52. Ibid., 117.

53. M. M. Chipman, “Importance of Forest Preservation and Timber Cultivation,” Report of Committee on Medical Topography, Meteorology, Endemics, Etc., Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1882–1883 [13th] (Sacramento, 1883), 240–81, quotes from 262; M.M. Chipman “Report of the Committee on Medical Topography, Endemics, Etc.,” Transactions of the Medical Society of the State of California, 1880–1881 [11th] (Sacramento, 1881), 128–51, quote on 151. On the controversy over mining debris, see Robert Kelley, Gold vs. Grain: California’s Hydraulic Mining Controversy (Glendale: Arthur H. Clark and Co., 1959).

54. On nineteenth-century medicine, John Harley Warner, “Medical Sectarianism, Therapeutic Conflict, and the Shaping of Orthodox Professional Identity in Antebellum American Medicine,” in Medical Fringe and Medical Orthodoxy, 1750–1850, ed. W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 234–60; John Harley Warner, The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge, and Identity in America, 1820–1885 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986); Naomi Rogers, An Alternative Path: The Making and Remaking of Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1998); Susan E. Cayleff, Wash and Be Healed: The Water-Cure Movement and Women’s Health (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987). Quote is from Dr. Jacob Bigelow, who is quoted in John H. Warner, “‘The Nature-Trusting Heresy’: American Physicians and the Concept of the Healing Power of Nature in the 1850s and 1860s,” Perspectives in American History 11 (1977–78), 295–96.

55. SSMI, “Minutes,” vol. 1, 21 July 1868, CSL.

56. Numerous types of practice competed with each other throughout nineteenth-century America, but medical diversity was even more pronounced in California. According to the SSMI, roughly 27 percent of California’s 2,600 registered physicians in 1894 were “irregulars.” SSMI, “Minutes,” vol. 3, 20 February 1894, CSL. Logan, “Medical Topography and Epidemics in California,” (1859), 120; A. B. Nixon, “Random Thoughts on ‘Conservative Medicine’,” California Medical Gazette 2 (June 1870), 207–8; A. B. Nixon, “Nature in Disease, or Conservative Medicine,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 15 (April 1873), 528–35; “The Place of Nature in Therapeutics,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 15 (May 1873), 573–92; “The Hot Air Bath in Therapeutics: Sun-Stroke,” Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal 11 (September 1868), 174–76; E. Malcolm Morse, “‘Conservative Medicine,’” California Medical Gazette 1 (October 1868), 80–83; SSMI, “Minutes,” 21 July 1868, CSL; Ibid., 4 August 1868; Ibid., 22 February 1870; Ibid., 21 December 1872; Ibid., 26 February 1878; Ibid., 15 December 1896. See also, Kenneth Thompson, “Climatotherapy in California,” California Historical Quarterly 50 (1971), 111–30; Kenneth Thompson, “Wilderness and Health in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Historical Geography 2 (1976), 145–61.

57. Thomas M. Logan, “Report of Dr. T. M. Logan, Corresponding Secretary of the Medical Society of the State of California,” California Medical Gazette 1 (April 1857), 436–39; CSBH, First Biennial Report, 2; Thomas M. Logan, “Report to the Governor of California,” 1 July 1873, reprinted in California’s Health 2, 15 May 1945, 166. For similar statements by other physicians, “Medical Topography in California,” California Medical Gazette 2 (October 1869), 33; Hatch, “Climate of the Sacramento Valley,” 38.

58. For interesting attempts to historicize both popular and professional conceptions of the body and its boundaries, see Barbara Duden, The Woman Beneath the Skin: A Doctor’s Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991); and especially Emily Martin, Flexible Bodies: The Role of Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of Aids (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), who documents changing paradigms in the twentieth-century United States.

59. See, for instance, two of the preeminent environmental histories of California: Robert Kelley, Battling the Inland Sea: American Political Culture, Public Policy, and the Sacramento Valley, 1850–1986 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), esp. 14–15, 125–26; Donald J. Pisani, From the Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850–1931 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), esp. 116.

60. On this point in the European colonial context, see Harrison, Climates and Constitutions, as well as Richard H. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), whose general interpretation I follow. For other attempts to complicate the environmental understandings of colonizers in the American West, see Fiege, Irrigated Eden, esp., 207–208, as well as Valencius, Health of the Country.

61. Grove, Green Imperialism, 5–6. Also, this point is implied in some ways by the earlier work of Michael L. Smith on California scientists, Pacific Visions: California Scientists and the Environment, 1850–1915 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987).

62. In contrast Richard Grove suggests that the British colonial state in India was more receptive to such critiques. Grove, Green Imperialism, 478.

63. On these developments, see Paul Starr, The Social Transformation of American Medicine (New York: Basic Books, 1982); Rogers, An Alternative Path. On environmental history’s neglect of the body and issues of environmental health, see Christopher Sellers, “Thoreau’s Body: Towards an Embodied Environmental History,” Environmental History 4 (October 1999), 486–515.

64. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962). On the importance of these connections to modern environmentalism, see Christopher Sellers, “Body, Place, and the State: The Making of an ‘Environmentalist’ Imaginary in the Post-World War II U.S.,” Radical History Review 74 (1999), 31–64.

By: Linda Nash