There are a lot of great books out there that cover history in Hot Springs.  When you’re looking for something to engage your thoughts about the Spa City, check out some of these works.

From the beginning

The earliest settlers in the valley between East and West Mountains were Native Americans. Author Marcus Philips explores the legends, traditions and history of the tribes that came to the thermal waters and those who set down roots in the Valley of the Vapors, in his book Indian Folklore Atlas of Hot Springs.

Photographic history

Since the dawn of photography, Hot Springs has been captured on film and in digital photos.  Ray Hanley collected and curated many of those images to create A Place Apart: A Pictoral History of Hot Springs.  Hanley shares the photographs and provides the connective narrative covering everything from Thomas Jefferson’s acquisition of the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1804 to its creation as the Hot Springs Reservation in 1832 and its official naming as Hot Springs National Park in 1921.  Learn about both sober folks and scoundrels that haunted Central Avenue and its surrounds over the centuries since the city was first founded.

Gangster history

In the 1930s, Hot Springs became a peaceful ground where members of organized crime families would vacation away from such hubs as New York and Chicago.  In Hot Springs: From Capone to Costello, Robert K. Raines documents the rise and fall of gangsters in the Spa City, what was then referred to as "the loose buckle in the Bible Belt." You can also pick up Mr. Raines book in Hot Springs at the Gangster Museum

Orval Allbritton goes a bit further, covering the time period between 1920 and 1965.  His work, The Mob at the Spa: Organized Crime and Its Fascination with Hot Springs, Arkansas, delves into gambling during this era, and focuses on how the locals and gangsters alike worked their way into profitable yet illegal enterprise and how gambling survived in the form of horse racing at Oaklawn Racing Park.

Graham Nown focuses in tighter on one particular individual, Owney Madden.  In The Arkansas Godfather, Nown examines the second half of the life of this English immigrant turned New York mob boss, and his relationship with the Hot Springs postmaster’s daughter. 


Hot Springs brought in all sorts of tourists, and Maxine Temple Jones was ready for them.  In the reprinted autobiography Call Me Madam: The Life And Times of a Hot Springs Madam, Jones shares her experiences on how she came into her position and the many people she met in her work.

Art in the city

The thermal waters and relaxed atmosphere brought many artists to Hot Springs over the decades.  Catherine Thornton shares images of 48 oil and watercolor paintings inspired by old photographs of historic places and people in the city in The Art of History:  Catherine Thornton's Hot Springs

Baseball and the training grounds

In Boiling Out at the Springs, Don Duren covers the history of Major League Baseball’s spring training camps held in the city between the 1880s and the 1940s.  Learn about the teams that brought their players in to warm them up for the seasons – including a Red Sox player by the name of Babe Ruth.

Marc Blaeuer delves into the subject with his book Baseball in Hot Springs, a new release investigating the baseball colony that would form each year and how the combination of hot thermal springs, cool spring breezes and legendary teams lead to a crop of young baseball players, many of which ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Famous resident

Of course, the most famous resident to call Hot Springs home is probably William Jefferson Clinton.  The 42nd President of the United States spent his boyhood and high school years in the town, growing up amongst its characters and locations.  Check out his chapters on life in Hot Springs in his 2004 autobiography, Bill Clinton: My Life

Post by, Kat Robinson, a vetted food and travel journalist who's spent 24 years working in radio, tevelision, print & internet.