1883 Places To Increase Insanity

A Report Read At The State Charities Aid Association.

The State Charities Aid Association met yesterday afternoon at No. 6 East Fourteenth street. Mr. Charles S. Fairchild presided. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President – Charles S. Fairchild; Vice-President – Mrs. William B. Rice; Treasurer – Charles Russell Hone; Librarian – Miss A.H. Woolsey; Board of Managers – John Jay, Mrs. d’Oremieulx, Judge Henry E. Howland, Mrs. Lydia M. Hoyt, John A. McKim, Miss Grace H. Dodge, Frederick N. Owen, Miss Emily Tuckerman, James H. Fay, Miss Rosalie Butler, Miss Emily Hoppin. The Treasurer reported that the expenses of the association for the year ending Nov. 30, 1883, were $5,176.24, and the receipts $4,946.97.

The Secretary’s report was a lengthy document, embracing a history of the work of 44 local visiting committees, in addition to the standing committees and the New-York County Visiting Committee, with its branches. The subject of the treatment of the insane in poor-houses and in the County asylums was treated at length, and descriptions were given of the asylums and poor-houses visited in different counties. The report dwelt upon the desirability of doing away with the local institutions for the insane, which were described as rather calculated for the encouragement of insanity and misery generally than for their suppression. In the visitations of the association to the County asylums and poor-houses a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs from the moral and hygienic point of view was found to exist. Lunatics who, perhaps, might be cured or improved with proper care in State hospitals were found cooped up in close cells like ox-stalls, as in Chenango County, or chained to strong iron rings in the wall of the yard, like wild animals, as in Genesee – the lack of suitable care-takers making this recourse to restraint necessary. In Broome County the bath-room was found in the coal-cellar – six patients bathing in the same water, which was then saved to wash the clothes in the laundry. As a general rule the insane in county poor-houses were kept in attics, basements, and out buildings filthy and squalid. In Niagara County, the Secretary found insane patients shoeless, bareheaded, compelled to sit on the floor, and all, both men and women, under charge of a male pauper. The report recommends that poor-house insane wards and county asylums be abolished, and that all classes of insane be cared for by the State, in cottages of moderate coast on the vacant lands of the six present State institutions. The report also recommends the opening of training schools for nurses in insane hospitals.

The poor-house buildings in Tioga County are described as old and uncomfortable. There is lack of hospital accommodation for the sick and of bathing conveniences. The poor-house in Chenango County presented a sad spectacle of disease, depravity, and insanity. There were many distressing cases of suffering and misery. It is said that this poor-house contains a larger number of inmates who are mentally and physically diseased than any other in the State. In Fulton County the paupers are improperly provided for. Men and women, sick and well, sane and insane, were herded together like animals. The sick have no special care taken of them. The Genesee County Poor-house building is described as a pestilence-breeding place.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 14, 1883, Copyright @ The New York Times.


2 thoughts on “1883 Places To Increase Insanity

  1. To read this really is not just sad but sickening. To thinkof this happening over such a long period and I feel sure it was probably kept hidden by the state of New York and other states as tithe actual treatment and conditions of the people held there.


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