The official history of family therapy describes its beginnings as a daring technical and philosophical departure from traditional individual treatment in the 1960s, inspired especially by the "system thinking" of Gregory Bateson. This celebrated origin story needs to be supplemented with a longer and larger history of both practice and thought about the family, and that is the subject of this article. The longer history goes back to the founding of social work by Mary Richmond, of pragmatism by William James, and of the organic view of social systems intervention by John Dewey. Seen against this background, family therapy is, among other things, a consequence of the development of persistent elements of American professional culture, experience, and philosophy. The taking of this historical-anthropological view discloses also the origins of two other histories that have made their contribution to the development of family therapy: a science of observing communication processes that starts with Edward Sapir and leads to contemporary conversation analysis, and a history of mesmerism in the United States that culminates in Milton Erickson and his followers.