Abandoning nature: swimming pools and clean, healthy recreation in Hamilton, Ontario, c. 1930s-1950s

Can Bull Med Hist. 2011;28(2):315-37. doi: 10.3138/cbmh.28.2.315.


Municipal swimming pools arose as a technological fix for an urban public health and recreation crisis in Hamilton when its bay became a polluted sink for residential and industrial wastes. Until World War II, city leaders and medical authorities believed that they could identify, delineate, and construct safe natural swimming areas along the bay's shore, supplemented by a few public artificial swimming pools. After the war, the pollution situation worsened. For those who couldn't travel to cleaner lakeshores elsewhere, local authorities created swimming pools, thus abandoning the natural waters of the bay to the "constructive power of the profit motive".

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bathing Beaches / history*
  • Bays*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Ontario
  • Public Health / history*
  • Recreation / history*
  • Swimming Pools / history*
  • Water Pollution / history*