The current debate over the use of waterboarding seems new and fresh and relevant. But if working on a digital archive of historical newspapers has taught me anything, it’s that we’ve pretty much already done everything.
It turns out that practice was just as fraught with controversy then as it was now. It prompted a Congressional investigation, and the court-martial of a general (although he was acquitted).
It was even used as a discipline tool in a Kansas mental hospital! The article states that the torture was used on patients who failed to follow the orders of the institution’s head, Miss Houston, who administered the punishment herself. The practice ceased when Miss Houston was replaced as head of the hospital by the ostensibly more gentle Miss Gower. She merely had the problem patients “strapped to a bench and whipped.”