Natural mineral waters— containing dissolved salts and sometimes being carbonated by nature— have long been reputed to have healing properties. in 400 B.C. the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote a treatise on the subject, Airs, Waters, and Places. Many famous European springs were discovered with the expansion of the Roman Empire, and in the late eighteenth century people gathered at these sites to drink or bathe in supposedly "healthful" waters. Such an allegedly healing spring is in the grotto at Lourdes, France, where occasional "miracles" are reported (see Lourdes Souvenirs).
The fad spread to America where resorts grew up around springs, spawning parks, hotels, and even gambling and horse-racing facilities. (For a discussion, see "Mineral and Soda Water Bottles," in Cecil Munsey, The Illustrated Guide to Collecting Bottles, 1970, pp. 101 - 110.)
The benefits of supposedly healthful mineral waters were touted in advertisements, including labels on bottles and in brochures and in other sources. At left in the above photo (about 9¾" high) is the embossed bottle of "BUFFALO LITHIA WATER," billed as "NATURE'S MATERIA MEDICA," i.e medical matter. (Although purchased near Buffalo, N.Y., it has no association with that place; indeed, according to an ad in an 1891 Harper's Magazine Advertiser, it was produced by Buffalo Lithia Springs, Virginia, whose proprietor was Thomas F. Goode. It was prescribed by physicians, the ad claimed, for gout, rheumatism, and other ailments, including Bright's Disease.)
At center in the photo above is another mineral water bottle (about 8½" tall) with a paper label: "Olympia Springs/Near Mt. Salem, Kentucky./Good for/Constipation, Indigestion, and all Stomach and/Bowel Troubles,/Liver, Kidney and Bladder, Rheumatism, Etc."
At right in the photo is an undated advertising booklet for the Murray Hill Hotel and Black Water Mineral Baths. The 22-page publication (ca. 1920s) provides a detailed analysis of the minerals in the water (such as lithium chloride, ferrous carbonate, sulfur, etc.) and "carbon dioxide gas, in solution." The mineral baths were touted as having numerous benefits, including relief of pain, "increased blood supply to the glands," and other effects.