Swinging for Health in the 18th Century

Thinking about A.A. Alexander’s ‘Healthful Exercises for Girls‘ that recommended the traveling rings in 1902 reminds me of the health-history of swings…long before they were associated with the amusement of children (that’s basically a twentieth century idea) swings were for grown-ups.  First in private gardens (ala the famous Fragonard painting The Swing) then in semi-public ‘pleasure gardens’–which had overlaps with what we would today call a spa –places for ‘healthful recreations’.

In 1783,  joining a surge of interest in the effects of kinetics and gravity on health, James Carmichael Smith published An Account of the Effects of Swinging, Employed as a Remedy in the Pulmonary Consumption and Hectic Fever.    Swings were particularly recommended for the elderly and the overweight, as recorded by painter John Nixon (c. 1750-1818) in this watercolor of the swings at Sydney Gardens in Bath, which are now remembered mostly for being nearby to the home of Jane Austen during her family’s residence there.

[image via bonhams]

One Response to “Swinging for Health in the 18th Century”

  1. World's First Playground Swing, says the Daily Mail? Not. (Again!) | Playscapes said:

    […]  In the late 18th century, swings became associated with the idea of healthful recreation (as documented here on Playscapes) becoming first a part of spas, and then of gymnasiums.   These were semi-public […]

    September 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Leave a Reply