Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Dan Flores

Commitee Members

Kelly Dixon, Kyle G. Volk


American West, health seekers, history, public health, tuberculosis


University of Montana


This thesis argues that the health-seeker’s quest for climatic cures persisted after the germ theory of disease began to alter medical approaches to tuberculosis after its announcement in 1882. Buoyed by anti-modern sentiments and a lack of effective medicinal interventions, physicians continued to recommend that tuberculosis patients travel to Denver to seek recovery in a healthier climate. In turn, Denver’s polity and public health approaches were shaped by the influences of the migration of tuberculosis patients to the city. After 1882, new approaches focused on sanitation and isolation began to take hold among physicians and public health reformers who worked with tuberculosis patients. As researchers discovered more of the pathogens responsible for various diseases, they also started to develop more medicinal interventions. In the face of a medical field that started to revolve increasingly around laboratory research, the continued phenomenon of climate-based health seeking in Denver pushed physicians and residents in the city to grapple with the role of environment in health. Inadequate infrastructure also pushed Denver residents to debate whether their city’s beneficial climate could and should be regulated and made available to all tuberculosis patients. Examining the arguments that the health-seeking phenomenon prompted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals that the way physicians and residents of Denver viewed health-seekers in their city paralleled broader social concern over the benefits and drawbacks of increasing modernity and urbanization, the place of racial and class-based scientific conclusions, and the role of the government in public health and well-being.



© Copyright 2013 Sydney Rene Gwinn