Children at State Sanitorium near Walker
Tuberculosis is an infection of the lungs that spreads through the air. In crowded places, often with poor sanitation, tuberculosis can easily spread. Between 1890 and 1910, cases of tuberculosis in Minnesota rose by 64%. In World War I, one in six soldiers dies of tuberculosis, which was called "consumption" at the time. The disease was an important public concern; efforts to slow the spread of the disease included campaigns to end spitting in public.
Fresh air was thought to be beneficial to those with the disease. Minnesota built its first sanitorium in 1907, where tubercular patients were isolated from the rest of the public, in hopes they would recover and not infect anyone else. The sanitorium in Walker was called Ah-Gwah-Ching, which means "out of doors" in Ojibwe. The building was quickly filled with patients, and between 1913 and 1924, 13 county sanitoria were built to meet the demand.