THE SWEDISH MASSAGE
GEORGE H. TAYLOR WAS BORN in Williston, Vermont, on January 4, 1821. Largely self-educated, before he was eighteen he began teaching in the common schools of Williston; and soon he was selected to be the town’s first Superintendent of Schools. Before he had turned twenty-one, though, George Taylor was suffering from various chronic, difficult-to-understand, and evidently impossible-to-treat health problems. So, he began researching the matter for himself. This led to studies at the Medical Department of Harvard and at the New York Medical College, where he graduated in 1852.
Dr. Taylor started his professional career at the New York City Water Cure, 184 12th Street, at the corner of University Place – a hydrotherapy institution. He established his own practice, in or soon after February, 1853; and a few years later, he was joined by his younger brother, Dr. Charles Fayette Taylor.
Early in his career, George H. Taylor encountered a curious belief among people in general, as well as among physicians, that women’s bodies were particularly susceptible to disease. He found no evidence to support this notion; and much of his work was devoted to promoting the health of women, particularly through exercise.
Taylor developed a system of exercise therapy, and later he learned of institutions in Stockholm that used similar methods. This is probably why his brother Charles, very soon after being awarded a degree in medicine in 1856, sailed to England to learn Per Henrik Ling’s system of Swedish movements from Dr. Mathias Roth, the author of the first English book about Swedish massage. In 1858, George traveled to Sweden to observe the Swedish movements firsthand. Once back in New York, he founded the Remedial Hygienic Institute.
Prescribed exercises and massage were at the heart of what became known as the Swedish movement cure. Dr. Taylor invented a mechanical massage device which he introduced in 1864. Later, his clinic at 67 West 38th Street became known as the Improved Movement Cure Institute. We know that, in addition to exercise and massage, it incorporated certain elements of hydrotherapy (water cure). Patients of the Institute were taught about the nature of their illnesses and about their treatment regimen, as well as about the importance of good nutrition.
Dr. Taylor, in addition to his mechanical massage device, invented various types of exercise equipment used to treat specific medical problems.