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The Steamy History of the Jacuzzi

Giovanni and Teresa Jacuzzi married in 1886 and had 13 children, seven sons and six daughters. The family emigrated to America to escape World War I, and the sons worked together to invent, build, and market machines. Rachele, the oldest Jacuzzi brother, came up with an improvement in the airplane propellor. Then an entire airplane. Then a water-pumping method that led to irrigation machines which were very popular in California. The youngest brother, Candido, perfected his English so he could sell the Jacuzzi gadgets. Then in the 1940s, Candido’s young son Ken contracted strep throat.

While this seems eminently treatable now, Ken’s illness occurred in the era before antibiotics. Strep leads to rheumatic fever, which leads to Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), a syndrome that causes persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. In Ken's case, the infection went systemic, meaning his entire body was affected. The family took him to a rheumatologist, who recommended physical therapy in addition to a constant and steady assortment of drugs. He also recommended a more advanced treatment.

“Hydrotherapy,” says Ken, “to warm up my body and joints, to get them more flexible.” Inez noticed Ken reacted well to the water-based treatments, but couldn't always make the drive. So, to cut down on he logistical hassle, she enlisted Candido to take a look at the hydrotherapy unit. “He came to the conclusion that it's just pumps. So, he developed a design.”

That’s how the Jacuzzi was born, but it is far from the whole story. The Jacuzzis were industrial suppliers, and had never marketed products to consumers. That took some innovation, which is what the family always did best. Read how the Jacuzzi went from a custom health aid to an international craze at Atlas Obscura.

(Image courtesy of Ken Jacuzzi)

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