Lunatic Asylum, Bull Street & Elmwood Avenue, Columbia, SC
Photo: Library of Congress
Digital ID hhh.sc0065



Articles concerning issues surrounding insanity.

  • After Care for the Insane: New York State 1906‘Resolved, That in the opinion of this Conference, it is desirable that there shall be established in this State, through private philanthropy, a system for providing temporary assistance and friendly aid and counsel for needy persons discharged, recovered, from State Hospitals for the Insane, otherwise known as ‘After Care for the Insane.’'Resolved, That the State Charities Aid Association be requested, by this Conference, to organize a system of After Care for the Insane in this State, and to put it into practical operation.'Resolved, That the representatives of the State Commission in Lunacy and the managers and superintendents of the State Hospitals for the Insane, here present, hereby pledge to the State Charities Aid Association their earnest and hearty co-operation in the establishment and maintenance of a system of After Care for the Insane in this State.'
  • Care of the Filthy Cases of Insane: 1885“In all of the institutions for the insane in the State of New York there is a considerable number who are very properly classed as ‘filthy.’ They are found in largest numbers in the asylums for the chronic insane, in county asylums, and in the poorhouses. But, wherever they are found, they are a source of perpetual annoyance to attendants, and of disgust to the more intelligent and refined inmates. One filthy patient on a hall, or ward, will often require more of the time and work of the attendants than the remaining fifty. I have seen patients in the asylums of this State who were thoroughly bathed, and had a complete change of under-clothing, and two or three times of their external clothing, eighteen times in a single day...."
  • Colony For Epileptics (1914)Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
  • Defective Classes (1891)I propose the following classification of the defective classes, depending upon the three divisions of the mental faculties which are generally accepted by psychologists. Insanity and idiocy are different forms of defective intellect. Crime and vice are caused by defect of the emotions or passions. And pauperism is caused by defect of the will. Blindness and deaf-mutism are defects of the senses, requiring special forms of education, but are not defects of the mind any more than the loss of an arm or a leg. Blind or deaf people properly educated are not a burden or a danger to society, as are criminals, insane persons, or paupers. Their defects are physical, not mental, and they should not be classed with persons who have these mental defects.
  • Deportation of the Insane Aliens: 1907The present course taken by the United States Government in deporting insane aliens who have been in this country for some time is characterized by unnecessary harshness and even injustice. The purpose of deportation is to save this country the expense of maintaining a dependent person. The great majority of the aliens who are deported are persons who entered the country in perfectly good faith, with the intention and desire of earning a living, and in the vigor of youth, the average age of those deported being thirty years. It is not altogether their own fault that such aliens find themselves surrounded by economic and social conditions so unfavorable to their mental and physical health that they break down under the strain of competing with those who are better adapted to the conditions of life in this country.
  • First Annual Report Of The Trustees Of (Mass.) State Lunatic Hospital: 1833Other institutions, both in Europe and America, which have exhibited the most remarkable proportion of cures, have discriminated in their admissions, receiving the more hopeful cases only. The inmates at Worcester have been a more select class than were ever before assembled together; but unfortunately for success in regard to cures, it has been a selection of the most deplorable cases in the whole community. Of the one hundred and sixty-four individuals received, considerably more than one half came from jails, almshouses and houses of correction, and about one third of the whole number had suffered confinement for periods varying from ten to thirty-two years.
  • Franklin Pierce's 1854 VetoThe legislation advocated by Dorothea Dix -- and passed by the House and Senate -- was not unprecedented. At a time when there was no federal income tax, public land represented the largest potential financial resource available to the federal government. Federal lands had already been used to promote the construction of railroads, and there were discussions in 1854 of a homestead act that would provide free land to settlers who were willing to move to the West.
  • Franklin Pierce's Veto Is ChallengedWilliam Seward was one of the most powerful statesmen of the 1850s. Under Abraham Lincoln, with whom he vied for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, he was Secretary of State. In 1854, as a Senator from New York, he was a supporter of the Dorthea Dix bill that passed both the House and Senate. Here he provided his rationale for opposing the veto message given by President Pierce. The effort to override the veto failed.
  • Insanity in the Middle States: 1876Insanity is, in the middle states, as in the other states, increasing disproportionately to the increase of population; and it also seems to be appearing at an earlier age than formerly, which latter fact is probably due to hereditary influences, which have gradually become intensified by violation of physical laws in early life, want of proper training, or too high pressure in education. Next to hereditary predisposition, which is the first and great predisposing cause of insanity in the middle states, as elsewhere, comes the great mental activity and strain upon the nervous system that appertains to the present age and state of civilization. This feverish haste and unrest which characterize us as a people, the undue predominance of the nervous temperament and the want of proper recreation and sleep tend to a rapid decay of the nervous system and to insanity, as a necessary sequence. It is much to be deplored that intemperance is operating more and more, each succeeding year, as a formidable cause in the production of insanity. It is not too much to say that twenty-five per cent of all cases of insanity admitted into the asylums of our middle states is due either proximately or remotely to intemperance which has produced a permanently diseased state of the brain, due to the interference in the nutrition, growth and renovation of the brain tissue.
  • Life In The Asylum (1855)The Opal was published by the patients at the New York State Insane Asylum in Utica during the 1850s. It contained comments on current events, literary essays and book reviews, poetry, and descriptions of events at the asylum, including the dramatic and musical productions of the patients themselves. This flurry of cultural activities was itself part of moral treatment. Such a therapeutic approach would become unthinkable just a few decades later.
  • Listening to Patients: The Opal as a SourceCompared to the overall patient population, contributors (to the Opal Journal) were well-educated, came from comfortable backgrounds, and lived in the “first ward” of the asylum, which was reserved for non-violent residents and convalescents, and was disproportionately occupied by paying patients. As in many public asylums, the Utica managers promoted the idea that their institutions were not simply glorified poorhouses, and so they allowed well-off patients to occupy more comfortable accommodations than others. Additionally, these first-ward contributors seem generally to have been spared the more onerous kinds of labor that many other patients performed: working on the asylum’s farm or its blacksmith shop, sewing clothes and linens, maintaining the ground, even operating and maintaining the press. Writing for the Opal, then, was a privilege – both in that it was often a reward for good behavior and medical progress, and in that it seems to have been more available to paying patients than to wards of the state.
  • Massachusetts Report On Public Charities: 1876There is one class of the poor, however, which constantly increases in numbers and in cost, whether the times are good or bad -- the chronic insane. We have a great number of this class in Massachusetts and it is steadily growing larger. We do not find that recent insanity is any more common than formerly, it may be so, but there is no conclusive evidence. But that the chronic insane are more numerous is self evident, and the proper place and means of providing for them are continually under discussion in our State Board of Charities...
  • Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital: New York - 1891It is claimed by the friends of the Middletown State Hospital that medical liberty has been encroached upon by the passage of the State Care act. It is difficult, however, to see wherein this effect has been produced. The free and unrestricted right of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital to give homeopathic treatment has not been abridged in any manner, nor, so far as it is known, is it claimed to have been abridged. But while by the passage of the bill under discussion this liberty demanded in the name of homeopathic profession will have been extended even further than as it was held before the State Care act became law, an equal measure of the same liberty is practically denied to all other schools of medicine.
  • Moral TreatmentMoral treatment was a product of the Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century. Before then people with psychiatric conditions, referred to as the insane, were usually treated in inhumane and brutal ways. In France, England, and the United States, people who cared for the insane began to advocate for more kindly treatment. In France Philippe Pinel instituted what he called traitement moral at the Bicêtre hospital in Paris. According to Pinel, insane people did not need to be chained, beaten, or otherwise physically abused. Instead, he called for kindness and patience, along with recreation, walks, and pleasant conversation....
  • New York State Care System For The Insane Completed: 1896Now the Manhattan State Hospital act is a law of the State. This will bring the dependent insane of the whole State, now numbering 18,898, under one uniform, enlightened, and effective system of care and maintenance. For this gratifying result much credit is due to the State Charities Aid Association and the Commission on Lunacy, which worked persistently and zealously together for years, and the completion of the system will redound to the honor of the State of New-York.
  • New York State's County Poor Houses: 1864"...The investigation shows gross want of provision for the common necessities of physical health and comfort, in a large majority of the poor houses where pauper lunatics are kept. Cleanliness and ablution are not enforced, indeed, very few of the institutions have even the conveniences for bathing, and many of the buildings are supplied inadequately with water. In a few instances the insane are not washed at all, and their persons besmeared with their own excrements, are unapproachably filthy, disgusting and repulsive. In some violent cases the clothing is torn and strewed about the apartments, and the lunatics continue to exist in wretched nakedness, having no clothing, and sleeping upon straw, wet and filthy with excrements, and unchanged for several days...."
  • Our New York State Charities: 1873“The State Board of Charities, of which Dr. Charles Hoyt is the Secretary, and Prof. Theodore W. Dwight the President, has just issued its fifth annual report. The duty of this Board is to inspect the public charities of the State, and make such recommendations to the Legislature as they deem best on their management. Few who have not studied the subject can have an idea of how broad is the field of work of our charities receiving aid from the State. Their property interest alone is enormous, amounting during the past year to $20,450,272 of real estate, and $3,727,602 of personal property. The aid they received from the State Treasury reached the sum of $1,635,558, and from municipalities the large amount of $3,341,762, while their total annual receipts were $7,832,902, and their expenditure $7,259,568. The whole number of persons in these institutions during the year was 92,741; the number temporarily relieved, 98,368; the number receiving outside free medical and surgical aid, 294,364, and the number under gratuitous educational training, 70,339.
  • State Board of Charities of New York: Reports 1878-1884In the early years of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, representatives of the states in attendance were invited to share reports on their experiences, problem areas and achievement in connection with the charities and institutions in their respective states. Here are reports from the New York representative at the conferences held from 1978 to 1884.
  • State Care of the Insane: New York 1901Prior to 1843, when the first considerable effort to properly care for the insane by the opening of the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica was made, little had been done to alleviate the condition of the insane in New York State. It was the almost universal practice, so far as public care was provided, to place them in jails and poor houses. Toward the end of the first quarter of the last century the Hospital of the City of New York made a commendable beginning by the establishment of the institution which is now known as Bloomingdale, located at White Plains. For many years, however, the number which could be cared for was limited and the accommodations were inadequate.... During the next quarter of the century, through the efforts of various philanthropy and charity only - Miss Dorothea L. Dix being the most notable, the subject began to receive wider consideration.
  • The Duty Of The States Toward Their Insane Poor: 1874"...Recognizing the fact that the sentiment of a community conforms itself to its written statutes, it is of the first importance that the State, in its sovereign capacity, should clearly define the legal status of an insane dependent in accordance with the principles we have stated. It should not be discretionary with a public officer, before whom a case is presented for action, to send an insane person to an asylum, or to an almshouse and jail. With such formalities as may be deemed requisite, there should be no discretion in the case; but the public officer should, in unmistakable language, be required by the statute to order the transfer of the insane dependent to a public asylum established and managed upon accepted and approved principles..."
  • The Increase of Insanity (1895)It is within the observation of most physicians who have the care of the insane that the insanity of physical degeneration, resulting from syphilis, paralysis, intemperance, under-feeding, epilepsy, etc., is growing more and more common. These are the least hopeful forms of insanity; and it is their prevalence which seems to have caused a diminution in the rate of recoveries, almost everywhere noticed within the last twenty years. Cases really acute, and not complicated with these forms of disease and degeneracy, recover as easily and as fast as ever; and there is even a tendency to virtual recoveries of the chronic insane, which was not so much noted until recent years.
  • The Management Of Almshouses In New EnglandTHE poorhouses of New England are generally called almshouses, and have been since their first establishment, more than two centuries ago; using the old English name which in England is now given to private charitable establishments, while what in New England is called an almshouse is in the mother country termed a workhouse. Like the English "workhouse," our "almshouses" were originally parish establishments, the New England town and parish having formerly been the same jurisdiction, although there may now be fifty parishes in a single large town like Boston.
  • The Moral Treatment of the Insane: 1847That some cases of insanity require medical treatment we believe, but we also believe that a large majority of the patients in Lunatic Asylums do not. There is much analogy between many of the patients found in all such institutions, and the passionate, mischievous, and what are called bad boys in a school, and there is about as much propriety in following the example of Mrs. Squeers, and physicing and medicating the latter as the former, in order to cure them or to change their propensities. Rational hopes for the improvement of either, should we believe, be founded on moral management alone.
  • The Treatment of the Insane: 1876In the treatment of the insane formerly very little account was made of work or exercise, and even at the present day, it is considered by many persons of small consequence. Once it was thought that diseases could be cured by medicine alone, but, the better we understand the laws of the human system and the causes of disease, the less dependence we find upon medicine, but the greater upon the necessity of a strict observance of the laws of nature. Most emphatically is this true, in diseases of long standing, involving the nervous system and mental soundness. Accordingly we find in all asylums for the insane, that where wholesome exercise of body and mind has been most systematically and extensively introduced in these institutions, there has been found the most successful treatment of the insane, the best health, the least mortality, and the most recoveries. Of course, the measure of success varies, and is exhibited in different ways.
  • The Willard Asylum for the Insane: Steward's Report 1900The first report of the Trustees dated February 18, 1868, states that the sum of $1,000 had been received from the State Controller. Of this, $916.66 had been expended in preparing the ground, procuring the seed and sewing sixty acres of wheat. They hoped for a good crop. By the time the Asylum opened, there were 475 acres under cultivation. A Steward had been appointed and a Matron. The former was an ancient title for one who managed a feudal estate. His duties at Willard were many and important
  • Three Years In A Mad House (1851)"...I refused peremtorily to suffer this treatment; I refused to take the medicine. The attendant insisted that I should, and harsh words followed. I told him the medicine was destroying me and I would not take it. He then commanded me in a tone of authority, to take the medicine. I did take it. I took it from his hand and dashed it out of the window! In a moment this stalwart, muscular man struck me a violent blow upon my head which either knocked me down, or he instantly seized me and crushed me to the floor. I struggled, when he siezed me by the throat and choked me. I began to have fear that he had my death in view, and would murder me upon the spot. I begged for my life, when he harshly exclaimed. "I will learn you not to throw away your medicine when I give it to you!" I begged for mercy, and promised if my life was spared to take anything he might give me...."