The Cunningham Sanitarium, 1920s

What is it — an oil tank? A spacecraft? A nuclear reactor? In 1928, this was the cutting-edge in medical technology: The Cunningham Sanitarium.

Dr. Orval J Cunningham was experimenting with the use of oxygen to treat a variety of diseases, particularly diabetes and asthma, at the University of Kansas in Kansas City, Missouri. Part of the process was to inhale oxygen through a glass tube for hours daily, and although Cunningham believed the treatment was successful, it was, well, boring to sit in one place for so long, just inhaling concentrated oxygen. He improved the technique by enclosing the patients in cylindrical tanks full of compressed oxygen, but those small enclosed spaces were still too inhibiting of daily life.

One of his patients, believed to be cured of diabetes by the oxygen treatments, was a friend of the King of Ball Bearings, Mr. Henry H Timken Jr. Timken, son of inventor Henry Timken Sr., the owner of Timken Roller Bearings Company, had both the money and the steel production capabilities to make Cunningham’s plans come to life. The building in the photo above was christened The Cunningham Sanitarium in 1928, and its spherical design was to allow the entire building to be pressurized above the normal air pressure, with a higher concentration of oxygen than normal air.

The building consisted of 38 bedrooms on three floors, with a recreation room on the top floor. An elevator ran through the center of the sphere. The walls were constructed of half-inch steel plates, and 350 portholes ringed the 64-foot-diameter ball. Patients would live in this concentrated, pressurized oxygen tent until cured, or so the theory goes.

The problem is, this wasn’t much of a cure. Cunningham’s theories were well-intentioned, but poorly tested. Few other doctors believed the treatment was viable, and now, ninety years later, the fact that modern hospitals aren’t giant metal balls lends to Cunningham’s unsuccessful methods. The ongoing Great Depression was no help to Cunningham’s giant ball, either: within five years, the Sanitarium was about to close its doors.

Another magnate of modern industry came to Cunningham’s aid. In 1934, James H. Rand III, son of James Rand Jr, proprietor of the Remington-Rand Company, showed interest in Cunningham’s work. While his father was revolutionizing the business electronics world, James The Third had left the family business to develop new inventions for the medical industry. At only 21 years old, Rand purchased the sphere and established The Ohio Institute of Oxygen Therapy.

Although Cunningham’s sphere may have given Rand a leg-up for his later inventions, which included an oxygen regulator and a variety of hospital fixtures, the Institute did not fare much better under Rand. 1937 was a particularly bad year for the spherical sanitarium. Dr. Cunningham passed away in February. In September the Institute for Oxygen Therapy was charged with violating Ohio securities laws, and a number of documents mysteriously disappeared from the state securities division offices. Shortly after, the sphere fell into disuse and was abandoned.

Around 1940 the building and land was purchased by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese to use as a youth center and summer camp. In November 1941, the Diocese was already considering ridding itself of the curiosity, but by 1942 the wartime scrap metal drives condemned the building to destruction. In March, 1942, the Cunningham Sanitarium was finally torn down on the orders of the U.S. War Production Board and the half-inch steel plate walls of the Cunningham Sanitarium, originally intended to cure disease, went into the production of tanks and warplanes.

Today, Cunningham’s theories haven’t been completely abandoned. High-pressure oxygen treatment still provides benefit in certain cases, even though it’s not anywhere near a cure for asthma or diabetes. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland still owns the land that the Cunningham Sanitarium stood upon: it is now the location of Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School.


Jack’s Wonderful House, 1910s.

Click for full image

A whimsical interpretation of the human body as a house, with Jack’s study at the top, and various windows and doors for sensory input to enter through. From a series of articles in The Book of Knowledge, 1910s. The articles may be an adaptation of this book, although I was unable to find any direct one-for-one quotes in The Book of Knowledge.


Prospectors and Underground Treasures

Once we’ve gotten past the dip compasses, the next two pages are the most important (at least according to this catalog) books for any prospector to have. And, thanks to the advances in modern technology, both books have been scanned (one by Microsoft, the other by Google), so if you’ve got a dip needle and a need to find some gold, these books can be had for free.

Underground Treasures: How and Where to Find Them, by James Orton, was first published in 1872, towards the tail-end of most of the big US gold rushes, but from that we can only assume Orton had used the time to become an expert in the field. The foreword reads that the book was written for “the landowner, the farmer, the mechanic, the miner, the laborer, even for the most unscientific,” to save them from bad deals or overlooking a wealth of minerals on their own properly. The book is dry and instructional, but full of factual information; I’d warn against using some of its ‘tests’ for precious metals, because they rely on some volatile chemicals and reactions that may not be the healthiest for the amateur to be messing with. The book does diverge from prospecting to describe how to identify genuine cut stones, versus cheap stones or paste, describing the stones eloquently: “A first class ruby has the color of the blood as it spirts from an artery.” Orton was ready to assume that prospectors were well-familiar with that color, which makes me a bit worried about how he gained his education in prospecting.

Prospector’s Field-Book and Guide: In the Search for and the Easy Determination of Ores and Other Useful Minerals, by H. S. Orton and M. W. Von Bernewitz, was first published in sometime in the early 1900s (the 8th edition was in 1910). At twice the size of Underground Treasures, Prospector’s Field-Book uses an extra thirty years of science and a thorough explanation of modern knowledge…although it does diverge into some more old-fashioned superstition (admitting it though) of how gold if often found on the right branch of a river, and several pages devoted to the kinds of plants that are tell-tales for buried metals. James Orton cut some of the basic skills from his book, it seems, but this book includes some more detailed instruction on how to use blowpipe and other technical tools. The size of this book makes it less of a ‘field-book’ than Underground Treasures, but probably more useful.

Model Publishing Company didn’t actually do any publishing here: even the pictures in the catalog betray that fact. The covers that Model shows in their catalog are the editions linked above — the Prospector’s Field-Book says “Baird Books” across the cover. A publisher doesn’t usually distribute somebody else’s books, but a catalog marketer certainly would, especially if it’s to market remaindered or out-of-print books to make a sale. Model pulled out all the stops, in that refreshingly manipulative hard-sell language that’s disappeared from modern marketing: there’s millions to be found under your feet, be the FIRST to find it, this is the only book of its kind (said about both books), order AT ONCE! Tomorrow, we’ll see just how this fits into Model’s marketing plan.


The Dip Needle

For a description of this wonderful, “NEW IMPROVED” instrument,
see the next page — although it will tell you what’s so great about this particular dip needle, it doesn’t really say how to use it (although, if you buy it, they will send instructions with). Dip needles are essentially a compass, but mounted sideways; instead of a magnetic source being measured in the north-south-east-west vein, a dip needle indicates just how close to the horizon a magnetic field line is. Standing on top of one, it points down, but most everything else will be some degree of angle from the horizontal. This particular dip needle has an additional axis, a “z” axis to the compass’ x and the dip needle’s y. Model also offered a z-less version of the dip needle, for the price-conscious prospector.

Given the external amount of magnetic influence on our planet just by having a north pole, a dip needle may seem like a fancy form of dowsing, but they do have a history of genuine use. Today, we use magnetically tuned electronics to find buried metals, but in 1930 these archaic mechanical devices were the state-of-the-art technology for prospectors. Dip needles have shown to be successful in prospecting for magnetic and conductive metals, but for obvious reasons not particularly effective for finding gems, oil, or coal. In theory, a small dip needle like above (about 3-½ inches across) is not likely to be sensitive enough to find nuggets or coins, but people claim to have success in finding largish metallic deposits with them.

At first glance, the interest in prospecting in 1930 seemed to me to be Depression-related, but by the 1920s prospecting as an individual sport was declining, having far more popularity fifty years earlier. The gold rushes of the 19th century were fading, but still recent enough to encourage people to believe that another mother lode was just waiting to be found.