Spas and hot tubs have a long and fascinating history dating way back. For example, people around the globe have soaked in natural hot springs for centuries. Around 600 B.C., the first known hot tub, made of granite, was commissioned by King Phraortes in Persia. And the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans loved to socialize in communal hot tubs. Hot water’s healing effects have long been recognized by Asian cultures such as Japan, where families enjoy relaxing in ofuros (wooden hot tubs).
But maybe you know all that. Perhaps I can provide a few nuggets you didn’t know.
* Why is it called a spa? A popular theory points to a Belgian town by that name, which was part of the Roman Empire. It was a favorite hangout for Roman troops, who soaked their aching bodies in its baths and mineral springs. OK, but that still doesn’t explain where the word “spa” came from. Turns out, the Romans referred to this treatment by the acronym “SPA,” which stands for “Sanus per Aquam” and means “health through water.”
* When did residential hot tubs arrive on the American scene? If you said it was during the hippie heyday of the 1960s, you’d be wrong. It was adventurous souls of the “Leave it to Beaver” era (1950s) who first turned old wine barrels and redwood water tanks into crude hot tubs.
* How were the seven Jacuzzi brothers able to come up with the idea for hydrotherapy pumps? These Italian immigrants first made their mark in aviation. After inventing the first enclosed cabin monoplane, which carried mail for the U.S. Postal Service, they turned their attention to improving agricultural pumps. In 1956, they invented a portable whirlpool pump to help a relative suffering from arthritis.
It seems fitting to end with a comment by Roy Jacuzzi, a third-generation family member who invented the first self-contained, fully integrated whirlpool bath in 1968. The following year, he added a small heater and filtration system to it – and the portable spa was born. His remarks in a 1998 Pool & Spa News interview ring true today. The spa is “still a viable product,” he said, that “gives [the whole family] health, well-being and relaxation – and it’s something that’s affordable.”