When nature won’t, Pluto will

Southern Indiana used to be known for its mineral springs. They were incredibly popular in the early-to-mid 20th century. Rail lines brought thousands of people to the adjacent towns of French Lick and West Baden and their springs — these little towns were enormous tourist destinations in those days. They are again, thanks to the casino in French Lick.

Casinos weren’t legal in Indiana until the last 20 years or so. But illegal casinos existed in French Lick anyway in the middle years of the 20th century, and they brought plenty of people to this otherwise small town in Orange County.

But the Pluto spring also brought people to French Lick. Its waters famously contained sulfates of magnesium and sodium, both strong laxatives. Pluto water was bottled and sold nationwide.

Pluto water also contained lithium, which became a controlled substance in 1971. That ended sales of the the Pluto laxative. But by this time the Pluto corporation had learned a lot about bottling liquids, and deftly moved its business into bottling and packaging. The company still exists today, packaging cleaning solutions.

The Pluto spring still exists in French Lick. Margaret and I visited not long ago and made some photos. The place smelled strongly of sulfur.

When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!
When nature won't, Pluto will!

The Pluto spring is on the property of the French Lick Resort, which is on State Road 56 in Orange County, Indiana.

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22 responses to “When nature won’t, Pluto will”

  1. Shirley B. Avatar
    Shirley B.

    Thanks for sharing! Very interesting, nice to know. What a beautiful building. I wouldn’t drink the water though… There’s a place we visit often, in Austria. They too have their own spring and there are a couple of faucets in the village where the water flows freely, for all to enjoy. It is supposed to be beneficial to your health. Yet, it smells of sulphur and tasts awful. Just one sip was all it took to make me decide I’d never try it again.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, sulfur water isn’t delicious. I suppose that if you try it and feel better somehow it might be worth it. But you have to try it to find out, and then you’re right back to sulfur water not being delicious.

  2. J P Avatar

    I visited several years ago and cleared up the mysterious product that was once referenced in old movies and TV shows, often in jokes.

    Now I’m left with a new mystery: what does a red devil have to do with a laxative mineral water?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My understanding is that Pluto was a powerful laxative, kind of like drinking a bottle of magnesium citrate is today. That is a complete system flush. Do not be more than 10 yards from your bathroom after you drink it, because when it works you will need to sprint in there.

    2. brineb58 Avatar

      Pluto is the god of the underworld, so I am guessing they figured that Satan is close enough!!!

      1. J P Avatar

        Makes sense!

  3. Lone Primate Avatar

    LOL, forgive me, but frankly, a setup like that had me wondering just what that “well” in the middle was actually for. :D

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That well is capped now, but in the day, you’d dip a cup in there and drink!

      1. Lone Primate Avatar

        Oh, thank goodness. :D

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I’m not sure that we don’t all need a little lithium in the water right now!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It would certainly level the mood!

  5. Mike Skelton Avatar

    The slogans are great haha. Nice post, Jim. I do appreciate how these articles can transport me to little corners of the US that I would otherwise be mostly unaware of :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m glad you enjoy it – I do love sharing it!

  6. DougD Avatar

    I guess that used to be quite a thing, we have a hamlet nearby called mineral springs, there used to be a health spa there (no gambling though) and the sulphurous water still flows from a pipe. Incredibly smelly, can’t imagine drinking it 🤢

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I wouldn’t want to drink it either! I suppose however if I was badly constipated and drinking smelly water would help, I might do it anyway.

  7. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Very interesting article Jim! I had no idea about sulfur/lithium waters until now. I know that lithium was (is?) prescribed for bi-polar disorder. I wonder what effect it had on those without the disorder?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It was discovered during the 20th century that lithium was an effective mood leveler, making the highs not so high and the lows not so low. That has obvious application for people with bipolar disorder! But I imagine it would have the same effect on anyone who takes it. I believe that you have to take lithium daily for a while before that effect takes hold.

  8. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    That makes sense, thanks!

  9. gmalcom Avatar

    Love this article and “thanks” for the background history……something I had never heard before. :-)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re most welcome!

  10. Nancy Stewart Avatar
    Nancy Stewart

    When I was growing up in Fulton county, we would go to the fairgrounds & city park in Winimac where there was a well and you could drink the water … there was an incredibly strong rotten egg sulfur smell.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Makes you wonder why anybody would take a drink!

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