1896 State Care System Complete


The Governor has approved the bill creating the Manhattan State Hospital and providing for the transfer of the lunatic asylums of this city and the care of their inmates to the State. Thirty days are allowed for carrying its provisions into effect, and then the system for the State care and maintenance of the dependent insane will be completed, save for perfecting the accommodations and facilities required.

Sixty years ago all the indigent insane in this State whose friends or relatives could not or would not take care of them were sent to the county poorhouses. The care they got and the condition of their wretched loves may be imagined. In 1836 the State hospital at Utica was established for the reception and treatment of acute cases of insanity only. Nearly thirty years later, in 1865, the movement originated by the State Medical Society for the State care of the chronic insane was carried to partial success by the establishment of the Willard State Hospital. That was a formal adoption of the State-care policy, and was followed by the opening of the Hudson River Hospital, at Poughkeepsie, and the Homeopathic Hospital, at Middletown, in 1871, the Buffalo State Hospital in 1880, and the Binghamton State Hospital in 1881.

Instead of fully carrying out the policy thus adopted, the Legislature began to exempt one county after another from the operation of the act of 1865 and to permit them to retain the milder cases. It caused a relapse in about a third of the counties of the State to the old poorhouse system, with all its horrors. This was deprecated by the State Board of Charities, the Commission in Lunacy, and the State Charities Aid Association, and many reports and recommendations were made in favor of completing the State-care system and transferring all the dependent insane to the State hospitals, whose accommodations and facilities should be enlarged correspondingly. It was in 1886 that the State Charities Aid Association took the first active steps in formulating a plan and preparing for legislation. Its first bill was introduced in 1888 and was defeated. It was defeated again in 1889, but in 1890 it had rallied public opinion to its support with so much effect that the State Care bill was carried through both houses, in the face of vigorous opposition from county authorities, and was approved by the Governor. The same year the St. Lawrence Hospital was completed.

The act of 1890 established the hospital districts and placed the administration of the system in charge of the Lunacy Commission and the first special appropriation f $454,850 was made in 1891. This was for enlarging the facilities of the existing hospitals and preparing for the reception of patients from the county asylums and poorhouses. The three counties of Monroe, Kings, and New-York had been exempted from the operation of the act because they had adequate institutions of their own, but provision was made for bringing them into the system by their own voluntary action upon the transfer of their asylum property to the State. Monroe County took advantage of this in 1891, and her asylum was reorganized as the Rochester State Hospital. The first appropriation for maintenance of the system by a special tax levy was made in 1893, and amounted to $1,300,000, and by the beginning of 1894 the transfer from poorhouses and the miserable “asylums” of counties was completed.

New-York and Kings still remained outside the State system, though they had to contribute their share of the special tax for its support. This payment was contested by New-York, but not by Kings, and last year the act was passed which took possession of the Kings County institution at St. Johnland and made of it the Long Island State Hospital. The bill effecting the corresponding result for this city would have become a law then also, except for the litigation over the unpaid arrears of State taxes and the condition imposed in the bill of their payment and the abandonment of the suit then pending on appeal. A short time ago the litigation was ended, and now 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 in 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.

SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published January 30, 1896. Copyright @ The New York Times.


1893 New York State Asylum Directory



UTICA STATE HOSPITAL – Utica, Oneida County.
G. Alder Blumer, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
One mile from the New York Central, the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, and the Ontario and Western railway stations. Accessible, every fifteen minutes, by New York Mills or Whitesboro electric cars. Stop at Cross or Jason streets. Telephone, No. 118.

WILLARD STATE HOSPITAL – Willard, Seneca County. 
Theodore H. Kellogg, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Accessible, from the east, by New York Central and Hudson River railway (Auburn branch from Syracuse to Geneva); from the west, via New York Central and Hudson River railway, from Rochester (Auburn branch) to Geneva, or via Philadelphia and Reading railway (Lehigh Valley division); from the north, Lyons to Geneva, via Philadelphia and Reading railway (Lehigh Valley division) and Fall Brook railway, from Geneva, via steamers of the Seneca Lake Steam Navigation Company, or by Philadelphia and Reading railway (Lehigh Valley division); from the south, via the Philadelphia and Reading railway (Lehigh Valley division), or by Seneca Lake Steam Navigation Company. Local telephone.

HUDSON RIVER STATE HOSPITAL – Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County.
C. W. Pilgrim, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
The hospital is located two miles north of the New York Central railway station at Poughkeepsie. Carriages may be procured at the station, and a public conveyance runs regularly to and from the hospital, connecting with the principal trains. The hospital may also be reached by the West Shore railway ferry from Highland station to Poughkeepsie, and by the Philadelphia, Reading and New England railway (Poughkeepsie Bridge route). Conveyances may be procured from Parker avenue station. Telephone call, “Hudson River State Hospital.”

Selden H. Talcott, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Middletown is sixty-six miles from New York city, and may be reached by the following railways: New York, Lake Erie and Western; New York, Ontario and Western, and New York, Susquehanna and Western. The hospital is reached by several omnibus lines. Public carriages may also be had at the station. Telephone No. 41.

BUFFALO STATE HOSPITAL – Buffalo, Erie County. 
J. B. Andrews, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
The institution is three and a half miles from the New York Central railway station, and is accessible by street cars, namely trolley line on Niagara street, trolley line on Main street, of horse cars through Elmwood avenue. Telephone No. 1235 D.

BINGHAMTON STATE HOSPITAL – Binghamton, Broome County.
Charles G. Wagner, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Located on the lines of the Erie, Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, and Delaware and Hudson railways. Electric cars leave corner of Court and Washington streets, near all railway stations, every fifteen minutes, between 6 A. M. and 10 P. M. Telephone No. 553.

ST. LAWRENCE STATE HOSPITAL – Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County. 
P. M. Wise, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Located three and one-half miles from center of Ogdensburg, on the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg and Central Vermont railways. Accessible by omnibus from Seymour house, four times daily. Public carriages may also be obtained at railway stations. Telephone call, ” State Hospital.”

ROCHESTER STATE HOSPITAL – Rochester, Monroe County. 
E. H. Howard, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Two miles from railway stations. Accessible by electric cars of the South and Lake avenue line. Telephone No. 124 I.

MATTEAWAN STATE HOSPITAL – Matteawan, Dutchess County.
(For insane criminals only.)
Post-office and railroad station, Fiskill-on-the-Hudson.
H. E. Allison, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Fifty-eight miles from New York city, on the New York Central and Hudson River railway. It is also accessible by the West Shore railway and the Erie, to Newburg; thence by ferry to Fiskill-on-the-Hudson. The institution may be reached by an electric railway, which runs within three-quarters of a mile from the Hudson River railway station; also public conveyances at the station. Telephone call, “State Asylum.”


A. E. MacDonald, M. D., General Superintendent New York City Asylums.
Post-office address, Station F, New York city.
All official communication with regard to the New York City Asylums for the Insane, should be addressed to the general superintendent. Ferry tickets and railroad tickets (at reduced rates, to those entitled to same) and permits for admission can be obtained only at the office of the Department of Public Charities and Correction, 66 Third Avenue, cor. Eleventh street.

W. A. Macy, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Accessible by department boats, from foot of East Twenty-sixth street, 10.30 A. M.; also by steam ferry, on even hours, from foot of 115th street. Telephone, 420-18.

E. C. Dent, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Accessible by department boat from foot of East Twenty-sixth street 10.30 A. M.; also by ferries from foot of Fifty-second and Seventy-eighth streets, running hourly. Telephone 1028-18.

Geo. A. Smith, M. D., Acting Medical Superintendent.
Accessible by department boats from foot of East Twenty-sixth street 11.30 A. M.

CENTRAL ISLIP ASYLUM – Central Islip, Long Island.
(Branch of New York city asylums.)
H. C. Evarts, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Accessible by trains on the Long Island railway; surface and elevated roads from Grand Central station to Thirty-fourth street ferry, connecting with Long Island City station of Long Island railway. No telephone. Telegraph Central Islip, L. I.

W. E. Sylvester, M. D., General Superintendent.
Three miles from Brooklyn; accessible by street car from East Twenty-third street and Fulton ferries. Telephone No. 68, Flatbush. All official communications with regard to the Kings County Asylums should be addressed to W. E. Sylvester, M. D., General Superintendent, Flatbush, L. I.

KINGS COUNTY FARM – Kings Park, Long Island.
(Branch of Kings County Lunatic Asylum).
Oliver M. Dewing, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Forty-five miles from New York city; accessible by trains on the Long Island railway; surface and elevated roads from Grand Central station, New York, to Thirty-fourth street ferry, connecting with Long Island City station of the Long Island railway; also from Flatbush avenue station, via Jamaica, Long Island railway. No telephone. Telegraph, Kings Park, one mile distant.


BLOOMINGDALE ASYLUM – One Hundred And Seventeenth Street, New York City. Between Amsterdam avenue and Boulevard.
S. B. Lyon, M. D., Medical Superintendent.
Accessible by Boulevard cars, or Elevated railway, to One Hundred and Fourth street and Amsterdam avenue cars. Number of patients 300. This institution receives and treats, gratuitously, a small number of indigent insane of New York city, and receives a considerable number of acute and hopeful cases, which pay only part of their expenses. It will be removed to “White Plains before October, 1894. Telephone No. 714, Harlem, New York City.

PROVIDENCE RETREAT – Buffalo, Erie County.
Under the charge of the Sisters of Charity.
Floyd S. Crego, M. D., Consulting Physician.
Harry A. Wood, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Located on Main street, corner of Steele. Distance from Union railway station, four miles. Accessible by electric street car line. Number of patients limited to 125. Minimum rate for care and treatment of private patients, six dollars per week. Telephone No. 791, M.

MARSHALL INFIRMARY – Troy, Rensselaer County.
J. D. Lomax, M. D., Physician in Charge.
One mile from Union Railway station. Accessible by electric street car, from Congress street. Number of patients limited to 130. Minimum rate for care and treatment of private patients, five dollars per week. Telephone call, “Marshall Infirmary.”

LONG ISLAND HOME – Amityville, Long Island.
O. J. Wilsey, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Thirty-two miles from New York. Accessible by Montauk division of Long Island railway; ferry from East Thirty-fourth street, New York. Only a short distance from railway station. Number of patients limited to 114. Minimum rate ten dollars per week. No telephone.

BRIGHAM HALL HOSPITAL – Canandaigua, Ontario County.
D. R. Burrell, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Situated on Bristol street, one mile from the New York Central and Northern Central railway station. Accessible by public carriages, always to be found at the station. Number of patients limited to seventy-eight. Minimum rate, ten dollars per week. Telephone No. 35, or “Brigham Hall.”

ST. VINCENT’S RETREAT – Harrison, Westchester County.
H. Ernst Schmid, M. D., Attending Physician, White Plains.
John J. Lewis, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Under management of the Sisters of Charity; for women only. Fifty minutes from New York on the New York and New Haven railway. Trains leave the Grand Central station, New York city, for Harrison, every hour from 9 A. M. to 7 P. M. Number of patients limited to sixty. Minimum rate, $10 per week. All official communications should be addressed to the physician in charge. Telephone No. 30, White Plains.

WALDEMERE – Mamaroneck, Westchester County.
E. N. Carpenter, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Forty minutes from New York on the New York, New Haven and Hartford railway. Trains leave Grand Central station, New York, every hoar for Mamaroneck. Waldemere is one mile from station, where public carriages may be found. Number of patients limited to eighteen. Minimum rate, $25 per week. No telephone.

SANFORD HALL – Flushing, Long Island.
J. W. Barstow, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Willett S. Brown, M. D., Assistant Physician.
Institution situated about one-half mile from Long Island railway station and accessible by public carriage. Going from Brooklyn, take Greenpoint or crosstown street car to Long Island City, thence on Long Island railway. Number of patients limited to thirty-six. Minimum rate, $25 per week. Telephone, Flushing 17 A.

BREEZEHURST TERRACE – Whitestone, Long Island.
D. A. Harrison, M. D., Physician in Charge.
John A. Arnold, M. D., Assistant Physician.
Accessible from New York city from East Thirty-fourth street ferry, via Long Island railway. Trains run every hour to Whitestone; time, thirty minutes. May also be reached by driving, via East Ninety-ninth street ferry to College Point, from which place it is about one and one-half miles. Going from Brooklyn, take the Greenpoint or crosstown street car to Long Island City. In taking patients from Brooklyn it is better to drive, as it only requires a little more than one hour via Grand street to Newtown, thence through Flushing to Whitestone. Number of patients limited to nineteen. Minimum rate, $20 per week. No telephone.

945 St. Maek’s Avenue, Brooklyn.
Between Kingston and Albany avenues.
T. L. Wells, M. D., Physician in Charge.
The Sanitarium may be reached by the Bergen street car line, the Atlantic avenue railway or elevated railway from Brooklyn bridge. Stop at Albany avenue station of elevated road. Number limited to sixteen women patients. Minimum rate $10 per week. Telephone No. 69, Bedford.

Sing Sing, Westchester County.
R. L. Parsons, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Location, one mile from New York Central station. Public carriages may be hired at the station. Number limited to twelve. Minimum rate, $75 per week, which includes all extras. No telephone.

Pleasantville, Westchester County.
G. C. S. Choate, M. D., Physician in Charge.
One mile from Pleasantville station on Harlem railway, and two miles from Whitsons station of New York and Northern railway. New York Central trains stop at Tarrytown, six miles distant. Pleasantville is thirty miles north of New York city. Number limited to ten. Minimum rate, $75 per week, including all extras. No telephone communication.

Wood Haven, Long Island.
H. Elliott, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Best reached by Brooklyn elevated trains, from Brooklyn bridge, or East Twenty-third street ferry to Ridgewood, thence by Richmond Hill surface car to Flushing avenue, Wood Haven. Sanitarium two minutes walk to the right. Also easily accessible from Brooklyn, by carriage, via Myrtle avenue, to Flushing avenue, Wood Haven. One mile from Wood Haven Junction station, on the Long Island Railway. Number of patients limited to thirty-four. Minimum rate $10 per week. Telephone No. 7,1, East New York.

GLENMARY – Owego, Tioga County.
J. T. Greenleaf, M. D., Physician in Charge.
E. E. Snyder, M. D., Consulting Physician.
Three-fourths of a mile from railway stations, where public carriages may be obtained. Accessible by New York, Lake Erie and Western and by Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railways, and Southern Central Division, Lehigh Valley railway. Number of patients limited to fifty. Minimum rate, ten dollars per week. Telephone call, ” Glenmary.”

FALKIRK – Central Valley, Orange County.
James F. Ferguson, M. D., Physician in Charge.
David H. Sprague, M. D., Associate Physician.
One mile from Central Valley station, on Newburg branch of New York, Lake Erie and Western railway, forty-seven miles from New York city. Number of patients limited to thirty-four. Minimum rate, twenty dollars per week. Telephone, “Falkirk.”

VERNON HOUSE – Bronxville, Westchester County.
William D. Granger, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Post-office and telegraph, Bronxville. Accessible by the New Haven railway, to Mt. Vernon, or by Harlem railroad to Bronxville. Public carriages may be obtained at railway station. Number of patients limited to sixteen. Minimum rate, thirty-five dollars per week. No telephone.

THE PINES – Auburn, Cayuga County.
Frederick Sefton, M. D., Physician in Charge.
Accessible by the Auburn branch of the New York Central and Hudson River railway, and the Southern Central division of the Lehigh Valley railway. A little over three hours by rail from Rochester, four from Albany and Buffalo, seven from New York city. Number of patients limited to twelve. Minimum rate, twenty dollars per week. Telephone No. 261.

SOURCE: Annual Report of the Department of Mental Hygiene, State Commission In Lunacy, Fifth Annual Report, October 1, 1892, to September 30, 1893, Transmitted To The Legislature April 27, 1894, Volume 5, Part VII., Chapter 32, Asylum Directory, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer 1894, Pages 675 – 685.

1914 Destroy Bad Food Of State Asylums

Shocking Conditions Found by Federal Inspectors in a Sweeping Inquiry.
Condition “Bordering on Savagery” at Binghamton
Milk from Tubercular Cows at Poughkeepsie.
Special to The New York Times.

ALBANY, May 8. – For eighteen months, according to information received to-day by Commissioner John H. Delaney of the Department of Efficiency and Economy, the insane patients of the Hudson River State Hospital at Poughkeepsie were supplied with milk from tubercular cows belonging to the institution and purchased with the State’s money. Mr. Delaney learned that in that period twenty-three gravely afflicted milch cows of the hospital’s own herd were condemned.

An investigation at once will be made by Commissioner Delaney to ascertain whether the animals were suffering from tuberculosis when they were purchased or whether the disease developed among them after they became the property of the institution.

The State Hospital Commission, which is responsible for the management of the State Hospitals for the Insane, has as yet made no official answer to the accusations contained in the reports of Inspectors of the Department of Efficiency and Economy. It was learned to-day, however, that when an inspection of the food supply at the various institutions was made some weeks ago by experts from the Bureau of Animal Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture, the Hospital Commission started to make some inquiries about conditions at the fourteen institutions under its supervision.

According to information obtained to-day complaints were received from several institutions regarding the quality of the beef after the commission contracted for a three months’ supply of Argentine beef. Inspector Phillips then urged the commission to have an inquiry made by two Federal Inspectors, and his advice was followed.

The reports of these inspectors have been in the hands of the State Hospital Commission since early in April, but have not been made pubic. The inspectors reported deplorable conditions at nearly every institution they visited.

At the Utica State Hospital the Federal inspectors were compelled to order the destruction of a large quantity of lard used in the making of bread because it was rancid. The bakery at the institution, they said, was “unclean beyond belief.” The floor and walls they found “in a vile state.” Conditions, they said, were “a grave menace to employes and inmates of the institution.”

They found 500 pounds of pork and seven carcasses of mutton which were unfit for food. After discovering that forty dozen of eggs out of a total supply of seventy-five dozen were decayed, they were informed by the kitchen employes that it had been the practice to feed the patients with such eggs.

At the Buffalo State Hospital the Inspectors ordered the destruction of meat unfit for human consumption; at Central Islip they condemned eggs and 200 pounds of beef; at Willard a barrel of fat, intended, it was asserted, for cooking purposes, was condemned.

Similar conditions were reported at the Binghamton State Hospital. A condition described as “bordering on savagery” was found by the Federal Inspectors in the storeroom of the Mohansic State Hospital at Yorktown Heights. At the Rochester State Hospital the inspectors ordered the entire supply of eggs on hand, 320 dozen, destroyed as unfit for food. A supply of bacon and beef in the storeroom, the inspectors said, should not be used for food. Employees at the Middletown State Hospital told the inspectors most of the eggs used for the patients at the institution were decayed.

Commissioner Delaney said to-day that reports from investigators of this department who have been inquiring into conditions at the Long Island State Hospital in Flatbush show “dreadful” conditions at that institution. The investigation of the Efficiency and Economy Department thus far has been confined to the mechanical equipment of the hospital, but Federal Inspectors have made inquiries regarding the food.

The Federal Inspectors report that many of the eggs at this institution are classified in the trade as “rots” and “spots” and “weak and cloudy” eggs. Employes said that the grade of eggs furnished to the institution was extremely poor. The Federal Inspectors found 200 pounds of moldy bacon and two tubs of rancid lard.

An engineer employed by the Department of Efficiency and Economy found the floors and ceilings of the institution in a bad and dangerous condition. The menace to the inmates in case of fire, the engineer said, was very grave, owing to a defective fire alarm system and improperly marked stairways and exits. The sanitary conditions of the institution the expert called “a mockery” of conditions that should obtain.

SOURCE: The New York Times, Published: May 9, 1914, Copyright @ The New York Times

Utica State Hospital & Cemetery

The State Lunatic Asylum at Utica served the ENTIRE STATE OF NEW YORK from 1843 to 1890. After 1890, Utica State Hospital served the counties of Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Warren.
1916 Utica State Hospital.

I believe that “Old Main” had its own cemetery located somewhere on the facility’s grounds. SOME of the deceased patients of Utica State Hospital were buried at Forest Hill Cemetery – Utica, New York.

Utica State Hospital by Roger Luther

Utica State Hospital by Roger Luther

Roger Luther – nysAsylum.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees

THE BAD NEWS: Thousands Remain Nameless! 6.15.2015.

THE GOOD NEWS: One Man Is Remembered! 6.14.2015.

1855 Samuel Joseph May

I need to explain who Samuel J. May was because he was mentioned in a previous post about Miss Phebe B. Davis who wrote the pamphlet, Two Years and Three Months in the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica: Together with the Outlines of Twenty Years’ Peregrinations in Syracuse. Miss Davis believed that “Priest May” had a hand in having her committed to the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica sometime between 1848 and 1853. Davis stated, “I have given simply the outlines of what took me to the Lunatic asylum. S. J. May, the great woman’s rights man of Syracuse, pretended that he thought it would be a great benefit to my health; yet he knew all the time that I could take care of myself, if I had any thing to do it with, – and that is more than his women-folks can do, though they are rational, I suppose – for they will not cook their own food after it is given them, while I was obliged to work for what little I did have and then do my own cooking besides. But however, as I could not make a comfortable living by sewing, I thought it best to go, and the more readily, as I had heard so much said in commendation of the institution and of the kind treatment the patients received there. Still, notwithstanding all these good hear-says, as soon as I thought of going there, a feeling of suspicion crept into my mind, which I could not eradicate and did not, that all was not right in that Asylum, and this impression proved to be too true – it was not imaginary, but real.”

Samuel May will also be mentioned in my next post in which Susan B. Anthony helps a mother, with her child, escape from an abusive husband who had her committed to an insane asylum for eighteen months. This story is taken from the book Eighty Years And More: Reminiscences 1815-1897, Chapter XIII, Reforms and Mobs, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Samuel J. May

Samuel J. May

Samuel Joseph May was born in the Boston area of Massachusetts on September 12, 1797, to Colonel Joseph and Dorothy (née Sewell) May. In 1825, he married Lucretia Flagge Coffin and had five children. He was a minister and an influential reformer during the nineteenth century who advocated for women’s rights, better education for children, and the abolition of slavery. He died July 1, 1871, in Syracuse, New York. Abigail “Abba” Alcott (née May) was the sister of Samuel May. Abigail and Amos Bronson Alcott were the parents of Louisa May Alcott who was an American novelist best known as the author of the novel Little Women which was based on her childhood and home life.

According to the Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography website: “Samuel Joseph May (September 12, 1797 – July 1, 1871), a Unitarian minister, was one of the greatest social and educational reformers of the nineteenth century. He advocated and organized on behalf of freedom and civil rights for blacks, emancipation and voting rights for women, and just rights for workers. Because he was many decades ahead of mainstream acceptance of the policies he fought for, he was often at odds with his ministerial colleagues, church members, and the public at large.”

“In 1845 May began his longest ministry, at the Church of the Messiah in Syracuse, New York. There, he came to understand the plight of women as similar to that of blacks. In his seminal address, the Rights and Condition of Women, 1846, he asked why ‘half of the people have a right to govern the whole.’ He became a familiar figure in the women’s rights movement, speaking at conventions and accepting committee roles, working closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. ‘Humanity is dual, and yet when perfected it is one,’ said May at the 1850 Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. ‘A perfect character in either man or woman is a compound of the virtues of each.’”

“On the eve of the Civil War the atmosphere in Syracuse became ever more incendiary. In January 1861, when a major antislavery rally was to be held, May and Susan B. Anthony were threatened with violence by an angry crowd that stormed the building. The rally was cancelled, and the mob paraded through the streets of Syracuse with effigies of May and Anthony, finally burning them in the center of town.”

“As war approached, May reluctantly recognized that human rights could no longer be pursued without violent means. He ended by supporting the war, urging the government to prosecute it quickly, and pressing Lincoln to free the slaves. During the war, May did charitable work on behalf of soldiers and prisoners. After the war he campaigned for the rights of workers and championed welfare for the poor, rights for women, and the redistribution of wealth through a graduated income tax. Into his last years he maintained his support of black and female suffrage.”
SOURCE: All material copyright Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society (UUHHS) 1999-2013 From the biography of  Samuel Joseph May, written by Dennis Landis, in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an on-line resource of the Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society. Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography, All material copyright Unitarian Universalist Historical Society (UUHS) 1999-2012.

1855 Miss Phebe B. Davis

Names of patients who were incarcerated at state insane asylums 72 years ago or more can be difficult to find; not because they aren’t there but because they are buried in old documents, records, and books. It is rare that one finds a first hand account of the experiences of a person who had lived to tell the story of being locked up at the state lunatic asylum. Miss Phebe B. Davis, wrote and published a pamphlet entitled TWO YEARS AND THREE MONTHS IN THE NEW-YORK STATE LUNATIC ASYLUM, AT UTICA: TOGETHER WITH THE OUTLINES OF TWENTY YEARS’ PEREGRINATIONS IN SYRACUSE, in 1855, with her own money. Her goal was to inform the public about the terrible abuses that were endured by the patients while in “the house.” I read her story with one hand over my mouth for many different reasons, and at times, I could be heard to say, “Oh, Jesus!” and “Oh my God!”

Davis Pamphlet 1855

Davis Pamphlet 1855

I have transcribed her pamphlet word for word and bolded the names of all the people she mentioned. This is what I meant in my book when I said: “To believe that all our ancestors were good, kind, law abiding citizens who were literate, owned their own homes, and held steady employment is unrealistic.” Some of our ancestors were down right mean!

The pamphlet is not an easy read since it was written 157 years ago, but all 64 pages are worth the effort. I knew that some words were printing errors but everything else I kept as originally written. If you have read my blog, you will already know Dr. Amariah Brigham and Dr. John P. Gray. In the coming days, I will do more research on Miss Davis, Dr. Benedict, Dr. Nichols, and Dr. CookBub.”

1858 Biographical Sketch of Amariah Brigham, M.D.

I always try to obtain obituaries from The New York Times but the newspaper wasn’t founded until 1851, two years after the death of Dr. Amariah Brigham, M.D., the first Medical Superintendent of the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica. This piece has been reprinted from Biographical Sketch of Amariah Brigham, M.D., published in 1858.  

December 26, 1798 – September 8, 1849

Dr. Amariah Brigham

Dr. Amariah Brigham

The following sketch was written by one of the managers of the Asylum – a distinguished physician – Dr. Charles B. Coventry:

Dr. Amariah Brigham was born in the town of New Marlborough, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, on the 26th day of December, 1798, where his father, John Brigham, was also born. His grandfather, Francis Brigham, one of the first settlers of the place, was from Marlborough, in Worcester county, a descendant of Thomas Brigham, who came over from England, and settled in Cambridge in 1640. In 1805, the father of Amariah moved to Chatham, Columbia county, New York, where he had purchased a farm, and died there in 1809. On the death of his father, the subject of this memoir, who was now eleven years of age, went to reside with an uncle, Dr. Origen Brigham, a highly respectable physician in Schoharie, New York. Here he hoped long to reside, and to follow the profession of his uncle, for which he had already imbibed a fondness. But it was so ordered in Providence, that in the course of a few years, this beloved relative was removed by death, and the nephew left with limited resources, to seek some new home and employment.

After remaining a short period with his mother in Chatham, having little taste for the farm, and an ardent desire for books and knowledge, he started off alone at the age of fourteen, for Albany, in pursuit of a livelihood. He soon found a place there, in a book and stationery establishment, where he resided in the family of the proprietor, and found himself happy. He had there abundant access to books, was in the neighborhood of the courts, the Legislature, and public men, and embraced with eagerness every possible means of acquiring knowledge. One who furnishes the material for this part of the memoir, well remembers the enthusiasm with which he would describe men and scenes of the capital, on his occasional visits to his mother at Chatham. Though but fifteen years of age, he could describe the person and qualities of almost every man of note who came to Albany, had his own opinion formed on nearly all matters of public interest, and could cite book and chapter for the ground of his opinion.

He often mentioned one little occurrence in connection with the late Daniel D. Tompkins, who was then Governor of the State. He was directed, soon after entering on his new employment, to carry some articles of stationery to the Chief Magistrate, who resided in a mansion with spacious grounds in front, near the Capitol. After delivering his parcel, and coming down one of the winding paths to the gate, he picked up a new silk handkerchief which had been accidentally dropped. Presuming it to belong to some of the Governor’s family, he went back and inquired for an owner. The Governor soon appeared in person, gave him many thanks for the return of the article, inquired of him his history, and then dismissed him with a cordial shake of the hand and a generous piece of money. That occurrence, which he often mentioned in later years, impressed deeply on his mind two things: the value of strict integrity in boys, and of kind attention towards them by men of prominence. He said he could not be bribed after that to do a dishonest act for all the wealth of the capital.

During a three year’s residence at Albany, while he had given perfect satisfaction to his employer, he had retained his desire for professional life, and had devoted all his leisure time to reading and inquiry relating to the same. His mother now moving back to his native place in Berkshire, Massachusetts, he soon got released from his engagements and resided with her, and entered on the study of medicine with Dr. Edmund C. Peet, a distinguished physician, brother of H. P. Peet, Esq., President of the New York Deaf and Dumb Asylum.

Here he resided and studied more than four years, subtracting one or two winter terms, when he taught school; and one spent in New York, attending lectures. His study too, was close and thorough, often amounting to twelve hours a day, besides miscellaneous reading.

While he had at this time, when his professional studies commenced, acquired an extensive acquaintance with books, had practiced much in composition, and wrote well, he had never in form studied English grammar. One who was the teacher of a select school in the place, informs us that he was waited on by the young medical student, with a proposition to be taught the grammar, and wished to have it all done in a single day. A day was given him, and a hard day’s work it was, for hundreds of questions had to be thoroughly answered, and different parts of the text-book explained. In the evening several young persons, who had spent months in the same study, undertook to examine the pupil of a day, and found, to their surprise, that he had not only reached their position in the study, but had gone beyond them, and could propose and solve difficulties in the language quite too hard for them. Within a few weeks he commenced the teaching of a school for the winter, in which he had a large class in grammar, and which was so taught, that at the closing examination, both teacher and pupils received high commendation.

In prosecuting his medical studies, he found that many things which he wanted were locked up in the French language. With the same resolution which had led him to master the English grammar, he procured dictionaries and other helps, and without any teacher mastered the French. Nearly one-third of his large library left, is in this tongue, and was read, in later years particularly, with as much facility as his own vernacular.

The year 1820, when his professional studies closed, he spent with Dr. Plumb, of Canaan, Connecticut, engaged, most of the time, in practice with him. In 1821, he commenced practice by himself in the town of Enfield, Massachusetts. Here he remained for two years, with fair prospects, but finding a more inviting field before him in Greenfield, the shiretownof Franklin county, he removed thither, and practiced for two years, when he went to Europe. After a year’s residence in France, Italy, England, and Scotland, he returned to Greenfield, but moved, in April, 1841, to Hartford, Connecticut. Here he had a large and successful practice, much of it in the line of surgery, until 1837, when he moved to New York, and lectured one winter in the Crosby Street Medical College. But his health here not being good, and not liking the confinement, to which he was so unused, he returned in October, 1838, to Hartford, a place which was always dear to him, and where he had hoped, even the last year, to spend the evening of his days. Dr. Brigham was married, January 23, 1833, to Susan C. Boot, daughter of Spencer Boot, Esq., of Greenfield, Massachusetts, by whom he had four children, of whom three, with their mother, survive to mourn his death.

In January, 1840, he was appointed in connection with Dr. Sumner, to take charge of the Retreat for the Insane, at Hartford, and in July, 1840, was appointed Superintendent of the same.

In the summer of 1842, Dr. Brigham was appointed Superintendent of the New York State Lunatic Asylum, at Utica. The institution was opened on the 16th of January, 1843. From this time, until the period of his death, he was unceasing in his devotion to the great cause of humanity in which he was engaged. It is well known that the building first erected, was intended as only a part of the entire establishment, and consequently, was not susceptible of such an arrangement, as was necessary for a proper classification. It was the ambition of Dr. Brigham that the State of New York should have a model institution, and this was impossible without further accommodations; and although his duties were thereby rendered more arduous and responsible, without any increase of remuneration, he was unceasing in his application to the managers and the Legislature, for additional buildings. In May, 1844, an additional appropriation of $60,000 was made by the Legislature, to enable the managers to erect two additional wings for patients, thus doubling the accommodations, and also the necessary room for bakery, wash-rooms, &c, in the rear of the buildings, and thus removing them from the basement of the main building. The new erections were completed in 1846, and were soon filled with patients. From that time until the present, the average number of patients has been from four hundred and fifty to five hundred. Dr. Brigham was not only desirous of establishing an institution which should be creditable to the State, but, in order that our citizens should avail themselves of its advantages, he labored to diffuse a more extended knowledge of the subject of insanity. This he did by popular lectures, and by embodying in his reports details of the causes, the early symptoms, and means of prevention, but particularly by the establishment of a quarterly journal, viz: “The Journal of Insanity,” which was devoted exclusively to this subject. In order to secure its more extensive circulation, it was placed at the low price of one dollar a year, in addition to many copies gratuitously distributed. To the readers of the Journal, nothing need be said of its merits. At the time it was commenced, it was the only Journal of the kind published, either in this or any other country, and elicited the highest encomiums from the medical and legal professions, both in Europe and America. Although Dr. Brigham was the responsible editor, it was the medium of communication for some of the ablest writers in our country. We have reason to know, that in addition to the gratuitous labor of editing and superintending its publication, it was long maintained at a heavy pecuniary sacrifice. In the Prospectus to the first number, the Doctor says:

“The object of this Journal is to popularize the study of insanity – to acquaint the general reader with the nature and varieties of this disease, methods of prevention and cure. We also hope to make it interesting to members of the medical and legal profession, and to all those engaged in the study of the phenomena of mind.

“Mental philosophy, or metaphysics, is but a portion of the physiology of the brain; and the small amount of good accomplished by psychological writers, may perhaps be attributed to the neglect of studying the mind, in connection with that material medium which influences, by its varying states of health and disease, all mental operations.

“We regard the human brain as the chef-d’oeuvre, or master-piece of creation. There is nothing that should be so carefully guarded through all the periods of life. Upon its proper development, exercise, and cultivation, depend the happiness and higher interests of man. Insanity is but a disease of this organ, and when so regarded, it will often be prevented, and generally cured by the early adoption of proper methods of treatment.”

In August, 1848, Dr. Brigham lost his only son, John Spencer Brigham, a promising and particularly attractive lad of the age of 12 years. In this son was treasured a father’s fondest hopes and proudest aspirations. He fell a victim to the dysentery which was prevailing in the Asylum, as also in the neighboring city of Utica and surrounding country, in a malignant form. A few weeks after he was called to follow to the grave his only remaining parent. These repeated afflictions, which were felt as parents who have lost the child of their affections alone can feel, evidently preyed upon a constitution naturally feeble, and seemed to prepare the way for his own premature removal. Though educated by a pious mother, and enjoying the advantages of an early religious education, he, like too many others, had been too much engrossed with the cares of this life to attend much to the future. This circumstance, with some severe strictures in his writings on the pernicious effects of revivals and protracted meetings on the health of young persons, very unjustly gave rise to a charge of skepticism and infidelity. If there was a fault, it was one into which a medical man, like Dr. B., possessed of a strong feeling of benevolence, would naturally run, viz: in his solicitude for the health and physical well-being, to forget that there were other and higher claims than those of this world. For the last four or five years more attention was paid to the subject of religion. The death of his son and mother made him feel more strongly the vanity and uncertainty of all earthly ties, and induced him to place his treasures in heaven. Dr. B. seemed to have a presentiment that his earthly pilgrimage was approaching its termination, and in his letter to his brother, the Rev. John C. Brigham, on the subject of the death of his son and mother, he spoke freely of his own death as not far distant; expressing, however, neither fear or regret. It was but too evident to the friends of Dr. B. that his afflictions, together with his arduous duties, were preying upon a constitution naturally feeble, and he was urged to relax his exertions, and if that could not be done to resign his situation; but he could not consent to leave his work unfinished, and only promised that when the institution was in a condition to dispense with his services, he would retire; but, alas! that period never arrived. In the month of August, the dysentery again made its appearance in the institution, but in a much milder form than in the preceding year. Dr. B. was seized with diarrhoea, which in many cases was the precursor of the more formidable affection. He, however, still persisted in discharging the duties of his office, and attending to his patients, until so far exhausted that it was impossible. The writer first saw him on the 27th of August; he had then been confined to his bed three days, and was suffering from the ordinary symptoms of dysentery; with fever, pain, and discharges of blood, but combined with extreme debility and prostration, so as to cause great apprehensions for the result. The severer symptoms yielded readily to the treatment, and his medical attendants flattered themselves with the hope that he might still be spared; but these hopes proved delusive: the disease, though not severe, had exhausted the little strength which he possessed, and there seemed no power of restoration. Every effort was made to sustain the system, (which was all that could be done,) but these efforts were all vain, and he expired without a struggle or a groan, on the morning of the 8th of September, 1849. The Doctor himself from the first said he should not recover, spoke calmly but freely about his death, gave directions about his affairs, and as to his burial, requesting to be laid beside his beloved son, and that the bodies of both should subsequently be removed to the new cemetery, where a spot has been selected for their interment.

Dr. Brigham was a philanthropist, a lover of his brother man, in the strictest sense of the term; he no doubt was ambitious of fame and distinction, but he was still more ambitious of being useful, and often expressed the idea, that he saw no object in living after a man had ceased to be useful. Fortunately for the community, the usefulness of which he was most ambitious will not perish with him. As the first Superintendent and organizer of the New York State Lunatic Asylum, he has erected a monument as durable as the blocks of stone of which it was built. His teachings too live in his writings. In additional to his annual reports, in which the whole subject of insanity is discussed, and the editorial articles in the “Journal of Insanity,” he has at different times published works of a more permanent character. In 1832, he published a small volume on the epidemic or Asiatic cholera; also a work on mental cultivation and excitement. In 1836, a volume on the influence of religion upon the health and physical welfare of mankind. In 1840, a volume on the brain, embracing its anatomy, physiology, and pathology. His last publication was an appropriate crowning of his labor of benevolence; it is a small duodecimo volume, entitled “The Asylum Souvenir,” and is dedicated to those who have been under the care of the author and compiler. It consists of a collection of aphorisms and maxims, to aid in the restoration and preservation of health, and we have no doubt it will be cherished with a double care, as it may now be considered the parting legacy of their friend and benefactor. The following extracts will exhibit the general tenor of the work:


“To all those who are or have been in my charge as patients, this little book is affectionately dedicated by their friend, – Amariah Brigham.

 “ ‘Peace be around thee wherever thou rovest,
May life be for thee one summer’s day,
And all that thou wishest, and all that thou lovest,
Come smiling around thy sunny way.
If sorrow e’er this calm should break,
May even thy tears pass off so lightly,
Like spring showers, they’ll only make
The smiles that follow shine more brightly.’ ”

Were we asked what were the leading traits in the character of our departed friend, we should answer, that the first and strongest impulse was one of kindness and benevolence, but this was combined with a high sense of justice, and he would not indulge the former at the expense of the latter. In addition, he possessed a strong feeling of self-reliance, a quickness of perception which enabled him to seize readily the views of others, and use them for his own purpose; but above and before all, an iron will and determination, which brooked no opposition; consequently in whatever situation he was placed, he must be absolute, or he was unhappy. It is seldom we find this strong determination of purpose connected with a feeble constitution, but whenever it exists, the individual may be marked for a premature grave: the strongest constitution can scarcely long maintain itself under the thousand irritations and annoyances to which such a will is subject.

The following extracts from the reports of Dr. B. while Superintendent of the Asylum, at Utica, are a specimen of the tone of kindness which pervades all his writings:

“That education which consults the good of the whole man, that tends to develop and strengthen in just proportion the moral, intellectual, and physical powers, is conducive to health of body and mind. But in all countries the intellect or some of the intellectual faculties are cultivated to the neglect of the moral qualities, while in others the feelings, appetites, and propensities, are too greatly indulged and cultivated, to the neglect of just intellectual improvement. Hence arise unbalanced minds which are prone to become disordered. They feel too intensely, and are too ardently devoted to the accomplishment of certain purposes to bear disappointment without injury. They have not been taught self-denial, without which all education is defective.” – 3d Annual Report, pp. 54, 55.

“Allusion has been made to a predisposition to insanity being given by premature cultivation of the mental faculties. This appears to be a fruitful source of weak, ill-regulated, and, not unfrequently, disordered minds. The mental powers being unduly and irregularly tasked in early life, never after obtain their natural vigor and harmonious action. The dominion of reason should extend over all the feelings and impulses, the good as well as the bad, for insanity is perhaps most frequently produced by the excitement of some of the best impulses of our nature.” – 1st Report, pp. 34, 35.

Dr. Brigham, as we have said, was ambitious, but his was a noble ambition. He was ambitious of being useful to mankind, and of leaving a monument by which he should be remembered in after ages, and be ranked among the benefactors of our race; and most nobly has he succeeded. Few men were less covetous of personal popularity, or more regardless of the opinions of those about him, so long as he was sustained by the approbation of his own conscience. The following extract from Bryant, which he himself selected for “The Asylum Souvenir,” but a short time before his death, beautifully expresses the purpose of his life, and the manner of his death:

“So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon; but sustain’d and sooth’d
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who draws the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.” C. B. C.

SOURCE: Reprinted from Biographical Sketch of Amariah Brigham, M.D., Late Superintendent Of The New York State Lunatic Asylum, Utica, N.Y., W.O. McClure, 177 Genesee Street, Curtiss & White, Printers, 171 Genesee Street, 1858, Pages 110-117.

1882 The Shooting of Dr. John P. Gray

1882 The Shooting Of Dr. Gray.
The Force Of A Presentiment – The Assailant Held For Trial.

“WASHINGTON, March 17. – Dr. John P. Gray, who was shot at Utica on Thursday night, has made many warm friends and acquaintances here during the last five months. He was the chief medical expert on the Government side in the Guiteau trial, and his advice was relied upon almost implicitly by Col. Corkhill, the Government’s attorney. Coming here early in the present week, he was occupied until Thursday going over the bid of exceptions filed by Mr. Scoville, examining it particularly with reference to the medical parts. On Wednesday night, with Col. Corkhill, he went to the theatre, and walked from Ford’s Opera-house along Pennsylvania-avenue to Willard’s Hotel after the performance. On the way Dr. Gray remarked to Col. Corkhill that it was, perhaps, a very imprudent thing for them to be strolling about in the city so late at night, as they were exposing themselves to the attack of any “crank” who might entertain a judge against them for the part they had taken in the conviction of Guiteau. Col. Corkhill says he paid little attention to the remark at the moment, but last night, when he received a dispatch from Utica informing him that Dr. Gray had been shot, it recurred to him with something of the force of a presentiment.

Dr. John Perdue Gray

Dr. John Perdue Gray

UTICA, N.Y. – March 17. – Remshaw, who shot Dr. Gray, Superintendent of the State Lunatic Asylum, was brought before Recorder Bulger this morning, and committed to await the action of the Grand Jury, which meets on Monday. Remshaw is judged insane by those who conversed with him last night and this morning. Dr. Gray is in bed but comfortable. A slight rise in temperature is reported. It is not thought that the pistol wound will much disfigure his face. There will be a small scar under the left eye where the ball entered, but the place whence it issued will be hidden by the Doctor’s beard.”
SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published March 18, 1882, Copyright @ The New York Times.

Dr. Gray’s Would-Be Murderer.

“UTICA, May 8. – Dr. McDonald, of Auburn; Dr. Flandrau, of Rome, and William H. Bright, of Utica, the commission appointed by the court in the matter of Henry Remshaw, who shot Superintendent John P. Gray, of the State Lunatic Asylum, reported that Remshaw is insane, and recommend that he be committed to some asylum. They sharply criticise the Directors and others who heard Remshaw make threats against Dr. Gray weeks before the shooting occurred and did not report the fact to the proper authorities. Dr. Gray is again able to be out.”
SOURCE: Reprinted from The New York Times. Published May 9, 1882, Copyright @ The New York Times.

To learn more about Dr. Gray, click on the “Interesting Articles & Documents” page to read his obituary.

1880 The Utica Crib

It is so interesting to read original documents from the nineteenth century. It gives us a great insight into how people viewed the “insane.” The following articles feature Dr. William A. Hammond, who fought to remove all mechanical restraints, including the infamous “Utica Crib,” from New York State Insane Asylums. The first article was written by Dr. Hammond in March of 1880 and was published in The International Review. The second article from the Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette published on November 25, 1879, argues that Dr. Hammond was making “reckless and wholesale charges,” it also refers to the inmates as “unfortunate creatures” as if they were not human beings. What I discovered was that the Utica Crib was invented by Dr. M.H. Aubanel, of the Marseilles Lunatic Asylum in 1845, and was introduced at the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica in 1846 by Dr. Amariah Brigham, the first Medical Superintendent.

On November 29, 1886, Dr. John P. Gray, died. He had held the position as Medical Superintendent at Utica for several years. On December 14, 1886, Dr. George Alder Blumer was appointed as the new Medical Superintendent. On September 30, 1887, Dr. Blumer proudly reported: “Mention should be made in this connection of the so-called ‘Utica Crib,’ generally known in this hospital under the less suggestive euphemism of ‘covered bed.’ I am happy to report that we have been able to dispense with these restraint-beds, and that on January 18, 1887, all that remained of them were removed from the wards.”

Utica Crib 1

Utica Crib 1


“Now let us take a brief review of the treatment of lunatics as regards mechanical restraint in this country. While it is certainly true that there are lunatic asylums, the superintendents of which are actuated by a desire to keep the number of restraint cases at a minimum, there is not one in which mechanical restraint in some form or other is not employed, and in some the proportion equals that at Hanwell before Dr. Conolly instituted his reform measures. In the New York City lunatic asylum on Ward’s Island, for instance, there is a daily average of over twenty patients kept in mechanical restraint, and twenty-five in seclusion. The means employed are strait-jackets or camisoles, muffs for the hands, some kind of contrivance to restrain the motion of the legs, chairs in which refractory lunatics may be confined, and last, but by no means least, the “Utica crib.” The object in view in using most of these contrivances is readily apparent from their designations; but the crib probably requires a brief description. It is constructed somewhat after the manner of a child’s crib, having like it barred sides and ends; but in addition it is furnished with a lid also of bars or slats on hinges, and fastening with a spring or lock. It is so arranged that the inmate is unable to open it when it has been closed upon him. The space between the body of the lunatic imprisoned in this cage and the lid does not exceed twelve inches, and is probably less. The consequence is that he must lie at full length, and this sometimes for many hours at a time. For those maniacs whose cerebral bloodvessels are full to repletion, the enforced position of recumbency is in the highest degree prejudicial; for those whose brains are anaemic it is not required, as they will lie quiet enough without being thus imprisoned. It is a matter of experience that patients who were previously maniacal while in the crib, dashing themselves with violence against the bars like a wild lion in its cage when first confined, have become entirely quiet and composed when taken from the cage and allowed to sit or stand; and yet its use is held to tenaciously by many superintendents, and long papers are written in its defence. It is true that it is not found in some institutions. There has never been one at Willard, none at Flatbush; and since the agitation for lunatic-asylum reform, it has been discontinued at Bloomingdale, Poughkeepsie, and perhaps other asylums; and even at Ward’s Island the lids have been taken off.”
(SOURCE: The International Review, The Treatment Of The Insane by William A. Hammond, Volume VIII, March 1880, New York: Barnes & Company, Page 236).

Utica Crib 2

Utica Crib 2


“Some notion of the utter wantonness of DR. WILLIAM A. HAMMOND’S statements regarding the lunatic asylums of this state may be obtained from the report of the senate committee, elsewhere published this morning, and the letter of SENATOR GOODWIN, the chairman of that committee, addressed to the editor of this journal. In respect to HAMMOND’S assertion that the investigation SENATOR GOODWIN conducted was one-sided and unfair, it appears from this document – in which all the evidence taken is published in full – that DR. HAMMOND and all the physicians who signed his petition were invited to appear before this committee, and furnish all the evidence in their possession regarding their alleged abuses in the conduct of the state asylums. It is their own fault – the fault more especially of DR. HAMMOND – if they did not make a case; and their failure to do so was admitted by themselves in the testimony here published. The evidence of DR HAMMOND, who makes these reckless and wholesale charges in the New York Herald, is especially noteworthy, as showing his total ignorance of the management of our insane asylums. He was asked if he had ever visited any of the insane asylums; yes, he had visited the Utica asylum twelve and eight years ago – on which latter occasion he merely entered the office; the Po’keepsie asylum four years ago – which was before it was fairly in operation; the Blackwell’s Island asylum – but not during the day of the present superintendent there; and the Bloomingdale asylum, but not since DR. NICHOLS has been in charge there. This was the basis of his personal knowledge of the asylums – and it of course appeared in the investigation, that he knew nothing at all. DR. HAMMOND was not able to make a single allegation, either upon personal knowledge or hearsay, which indicated any basis for the investigation he then demanded. His nearest approach was his denunciation of what he called the “Utica crib” – a contrivance or the confinement of violent lunatics which was invented by AUBANEL, the superintendent of the Marseilles insane asylum in France, and introduced into the Utica asylum, among others, in 1846, by DR. BRIGHAM, and which has been fully described by DR. GRAY in his annual reports to the legislature – notably in the eighteenth report. Even in respect to this crib, so-called, DR. HAMMOND was compelled to admit that the question whether this method of restraint was more objectionable than others was “a matter of opinion.”

The answers of DR. HAMMOND to two questions put to him in this inquiry will be interesting to our readers in Utica. To the question – “How long were you at the Utica asylum?” he answered, “I don’t think I should be warranted in making any observations upon that institution.” – and again, “Utica is the asylum I know least about.” To the question that he knew that the two asylums of which he made the loudest complaint were under the control of the board of charities of New York city, DR. HAMMOND answered: “I believe they are; my personal views do not concern any of the state asylums; I only believe in a general way that this matter ought to be investigated.”

Utica Crib 3

Utica Crib 3

 THE UTICA CRIB. The Covered Bed at the State Asylum for Restless Patients – A Herald Reporter Comfortable within what Dr. Hammond declares a “Barbarous Device.”

The unfortunate creatures who become insane suffer but little or nothing within the walls of humane state institutions when compared with the great anxiety and pain of loving parents and friends over their afflictions. Justice to the friends of the insane in the New York state asylum located in this city demands that nothing be added to their trouble by permitting unfounded reports regarding the care of the insane to go uncontradicted. Such sensations are cruel and unjust, whether they are prompted by malice or ignorance of facts. DR. WILLIAM A. HAMMOND, of New York, in an interview with a reporter of the Sunday Herald, of that city, took occasion to refer to what he is pleased to call “the Utica Crib,” the covered bed in use in the state asylum for the insane in this city, and in what are known as model asylums of America and Europe. When asked to describe the “Utica crib,” DR. HAMMOND said:

“It is a bed like a child’s crib, with slatted sides, eighteen inches deep, six feet long and three feet wide. It has a slatted lid which shuts with a spring lock. A lunatic put in it can barely turn over. There is not as much space between the patient’s head and the lid as if he were in a coffin. He is kept in the crib at the will of an attendant, the key being in the possession of the latter and not of a physician. Patients have sometimes died in these cribs. DR. MYCERT, who is an authority, says the crib is a most barbarous and unscientific instrument because there is already a tendency to a determination of blood to the brain in excited forms of insanity which is increased by the horizontal position in the crib and the struggles of the patient. The crib was introduced by the superintendent of the Utica asylum. The padded room could always be substituted for the crib.”

Following this is what purports to be a cut of the Utica crib. Any one of the thousands who visit the state asylum every year and are shown the covered bed in use at that institution will bear us out in saying that the picture looks as much like the bed as a peach crate does like a cradle. The cut looks like a chicken-hatching machine, and is simply a burlesque upon the truth, for which there is no possible excuse.


A reporter of the Herald visited the asylum, yesterday, and requested permission to examine one of the cribs which he had frequently seen in visits to the asylum. DR. GRAY cheerfully gave the permission, and the reporter had an opportunity of selecting one of five or six of the covered beds or “barbarous devices,” for actual experiment. Simply removing his outer coat he got into the crib, which was in condition for use, and the lid was closed down upon him. As the reporter is nearly six feet in height, and weighs two hundred and seventy six pounds, and larger in every respect than any patient in the asylum, it will be admitted that this test was a fair one. When the lid was closed the occupant laid with perfect comfort upon either side and upon his back. When lying upon his left side the position was sufficiently easy to permit him to write his description of the covered bed if he had chosen to do so. The hands and arms could be put between the smooth wooden rounds which formed the slatted top, and there was a perfect circulation at the sides and top. The bed was easy and comfortable and there was an abundance of room for lifting the head from the plump pillow so that the lower end of the bed could be seen with ease. In short the reporter found that he could roll and toss about at will as easily as he could in his own bed at home, but he could not get out of it – and this is the humane plan of the device which is styled “barbarous” – as will be seen hereafter.


The covered bed or “Utica crib” is simply an ordinary hospital bed to all intents and purposes. It is made of smoothly finished and varnished wood with a woven wire bottom and slatted sides, like a child’s cradle. The one tested contained a mattress thicker than the ordinary ones, a plump soft pillow, clean and comfortable sheets, blankets and counterpanes. In the sides there are twenty wooden rollers, in the ends eight and in the cover seven rollers of smooth hard wood. The cover is attached to hinges which permit its entire removal at any time. The beds are frequently used without the cover by patients and attendants. A few months ago a venerable Utica patient got into one of these covered beds and permitted a reporter of the Herald to close it tightly to note its workings. The patient moved about easily in it and conversed cheerfully. When asked how he liked to sleep in this bed he replied: “Oh, I like it very much. I am often disturbed in my sleep. When I occupy this bed I rest easily, for I know where to find myself in the morning. Without such restraint, I might do myself some harm during the night.”

The patient, tho’ insane at intervals, really had more sense than those who denounce what they appear to know little about. Covered beds, patterned after those in use at the state asylum, are used in St. Elizabeth’s and other hospitals of Utica and thro’out the state, and they are daily seen and examined by visitors. So simple and harmless is the contrivance that parents, after seeing them, inquire, “Why would not this be a good plan to prevent our babies from falling out of their cradles?” It certainly would.


The covered beds are used to secure the excited and restless patients, the requisite quiet and sleep in a horizontal position, that are absolutely necessary for their recovery. Insane people are sick people. When a sane person is sick his physician directs that he shall lie in bed, and a sensible invalid always obeys the orders of his physician. When an insane person requires rest he may be ever so much disposed to obey the doctor and lie in bed, but his mind is disordered and his will is gone so that he can not control his own actions. The result is he is liable to exhaust himself by getting in and out of bed at frequent periods, risking chances of falls and exposure to cold. Epileptics and paralytics are apt to fall out of open beds and receive severe injuries.

If such beds are not used, other more objectionable systems would have to be put into practice, such as the “bed strap,” for holding excited patients in the ordinary beds, or the forcible holding of the patient by attendants. This latter method better deserves the title of barbarous than does the covered bed system. No one or two attendants can hold an excited patient in a bed without using a force that must be more or less cruel and the marks of their grasp will not fail to be undeniably imprinted upon the delicate arms, body or limbs of the invalid. Insane people are endowed at times with extraordinary strength and the utmost exertions of strong men are required to quiet them. The use of the strap is harsh and at times injurious.


The crib, or covered bed for restless patients, is not a new device and was not introduced by the superintendent of the state asylum at Utica as DR. HAMMOND alleges. It was devised in France by DR. AUBANEL of the Marseilles lunatic asylum, in 1845, and described in the Annales Psychologniques of the year. DR. BRIGHAM, in 1846, introduced the crib bedstead into the Utica asylum, and was described in the American Journal of Insanity in that year. In 1852, DR. WILLIAM WOOD, medical official of Bethlem hospital, England, improved upon the crib bed, and gave a description of the same in Winslow’s Journal of Psychological Medicine. This bed was like a child’s crib but the covering was of webbing. In 1854 the AUBANEL bed was abandoned in the Utica asylum and the present one was put into use, resembling DR. WOOD’S, with this exception – the sides were made with rounds like an ordinary child’s crib instead of with boards like the English bed, and a round slatted corner in place of webbing, which powerful patients could easily displace.


The covered bed is spoken of as the “box bed” or “locked bed,” by DR. LINDSAY, in an article on dipsomania, in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, of October, 1808, in which he says: “Its use renders him quiescent for the time, while it maintains warmth and does not prevent free ventilation. I have repeatedly tried it in various forms, and have no doubt as to its having prolonged several lives and prevented many accidents that would have been sacrificed or that would have occurred under the customary arrangements of many or most other asylums. Such is my opinion of its usefulness, that I think it should find place not only in every lunatic asylum, but in every general hospital, for I remember the difficulties that used to occur in the fever and delirium tremens wards of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and the impossibility of dealing with occasional patients other than by mechanical restraints of the nature of strait-waistcoats and strapping to bed.”

In the Edinburgh Medical Journal of February, 1878, DR. LINDSAY, M.D.,R.S.E., and physician to the Murray royal institution at Perth, published another article commending the covered beds in the highest terms as invaluable for preventing injuries – adding, however, “a lid in the case of patients who would scramble out of bed with sides merely. The kind of bed that I have found most useful is the following, and I venture to recommend some such bed to the attention of the medical profession generally because I am satisfied it is very much wanted in all departments of medical, surgical and obstetric practice.”

Then follows the description of forms of beds all alike, or closely resembling what is called by DR. HAMMOND “Utica crib,” but which is styled by DR. LINDSAY “the protection bed,” a term he says “happily applied to it many years ago by DR. BROWNE of Dumfries, when he was one of her majesty’s commissioners in lunacy for Scotland, and who had occasion to see such beds in use here during his official inspections. Moreover, he had himself, when at the head of Dumfries asylum used beds of a somewhat similar kind. And in America such beds are, and have long been in common use in its hospitals for the insane.”

Finally he adds: “The general result of the use of the protection bed in some of its forms, as compared with the orthodox modes of dealing with the classes of patients already described, is this – in my opinion – that it is directly and decidedly conservative of life and health, and preventive of injury and disease.”

The above is high authority in approval of the covered bed from professional and practical men who have daily opportunities of testing its merits. Laymen or friends of those who are confined in asylums can examine these beds in the Utica asylum and judge for themselves whether they are “barbarous” or “cruel devices” as has been alleged.


DR. HAMMOND, in his interview with the New York Herald reporter, makes the important announcement that sometimes patients die in covered beds or “Utica cribs.” Can not DR. HAMMOND, without particular effort, recall many instances where sane and insane patients have died in ordinary beds which have no sides or covers?”
(SOURCE: Reprinted from Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette. Wednesday, November 25, 1879).

1880 The Treatment Of The Insane by W.A. Hammond

1906-1907 Elopements, Suicides & Accidents at New York State Hospitals

“The Commission is pleased to report an unusually small number of untoward occurrences at the State hospitals during the year. At the Utica State Hospital a somewhat unusual case was that of a woman patient who, escaping from the institution, found means to reach Albany where she obtained employment as a clerk in a department store. Here her peculiarities were noticed after a few days and her services were discontinued. She also received notice from the mistress of the boarding-house in which she had found domicile that she must look for quarters elsewhere. The excitement which followed these events brought on an attack of considerable violence necessitating her commitment to a local institution for safe keeping. When she became quieter efforts were made to send her to the home of her husband but she declined to consider this, alleging that he was, in the first instance, responsible for her unjustifiable commitment to a hospital for the insane. Through the good offices of a local attorney she consented to return to the Utica State Hospital, upon condition that she would be granted a parole within a short time. As she was able to exhibit considerable self-control she was discharged upon the hospital books within a short time afterward and has not, up to the close of is report, required recommitment. A woman patient at this hospital was paroled by the authorities for the purpose of spending Thanksgiving with her husband at home. Although she had not at any time previously exhibited suicidal tendencies she seized the opportunity thus afforded her to swallow a powerful drug, and although prompt measures were applied she died in a short time.

At the Willard State Hospital a patient secreted binding twine about her clothing and seizing a favorable opportunity hanged herself from the door of a room. At the same institution a male patient died from asphyxiation due to the lodgment of meat in the larynx.

At the Hudson River State Hospital a male patient left the grounds without permission, and was afterward found dead on the railway tracks near the hospital pumping station, his skull having been fractured evidently by contact with the locomotive or cars.

At the Middletown State Hospital a male patient committed suicide by drowning. It appears that he carried a pail of water to his room and held his head far enough in the pail to become asphyxiated. At the same hospital a male patient left the institution without permission or notice and remained for some months about the neighboring counties enlivening the situation at different times by transmitting to the authorities of the institution souvenir postal cards. At the same institution a male patient committed suicide by wading out into a small ice pond in the rear of the institution and lying down in the shallow water until this reached over his head.

At the Rochester State Hospital a woman patient committed suicide by suspension, using a bed sheet, one end of which was attached to the window guard. At the same institution a male patient committed suicide by drowning subsequent to an unsuccessful effort to persuade his wife to remove him from the institution.

At the Kings Park State Hospital a male patient met his death under somewhat unusual circumstances, and the hospital authorities called upon the local coroner to make the usual investigation. The patient’s relatives, not being satisfied with his report, requested the Commissioners to make a special inquiry which was done. Physicians and attendants were placed under oath, and all testimony that could throw light upon the patient’s death was adduced, but nothing was found to contradict the findings of the coroner.

At the Long Island State Hospital a woman patient, while on parole and in the charge of her friends, was accidentally killed by a trolley car.

At the Manhattan State Hospital a woman patient after leaving a dining-room started straight for the river. A nurse went in immediate pursuit and a hospital watchman also tried to intercept the patient, but she outstripped her pursuers and plunged into the river. No trace of her body was afterward discovered. At this same institution a male patient becoming very noisy in a small dormitory to which he had been assigned was attacked by a fellow patient whose rest he had disturbed and struck on the head with a small serving table. The patient died in a few days as a result of the injury. At the same institution a woman patient secured a poisonous drug, died, and upon investigation by the coroner evidences of mercurial poisoning were found. At this institution a male patient was found hanging in the closet in which are usually stored the brooms, polishers, etc., of the ward. The patient had placed a broom handle across the top of two shelves, and with the girdle of his dressing gown about his neck had produced asphyxiation. At this institution a male patient succeeded in throwing himself into the river. His body was taken to the Fordham Hospital, and afterward identified by the institution clothing. Another male patient committed suicide in the same way. At the same institution a woman patient eluded observation while patients were preparing for bed. The premises of the institution were searched throughout the night and the following day, but no traces of her was found. It was supposed she was drowned while attempting to swim the river. A Russian patient, while walking about the exercising court with other patients, eluded observation and rushing to the point of the grounds opposite Hell Gate plunged into the river, and after swimming a few strokes was carried away by the strong tide and soon disappeared. A second patient who had observed the first one escape attempted to throw himself into the river at the same time, but was prevented by the nurse who had started out to overtake the Russian patient.

Owing to the situation of the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island, it is at all times necessary to detail several attendants to specially guard the river banks and an attendant is also detailed to patrol the river near the shore in a row boat. Almost daily attempts are made to break through this line, but the escapes are relatively few in number. Owing to the proximity of this hospital to the city of New York, and the fact that all occurrences of an unusual character in an institution for the insane are seized upon eagerly by metropolitan dailies, occurrences of this kind are frequently exaggerated as are also injuries received by patients though these may not be actually serious. Charges were made against the Manhattan State Hospital in connection with the somewhat sudden death of a patient named Rodesky. Allegations of cruelty and maltreatment were made by the relatives of this patient, and the managers and the coroner made an investigation of the circumstances attending his death. It appears that he was a bed-ridden paretic and a few days prior to his death, on the thirtieth of July, was found to be suffering from a fracture of the sternum and three fractured ribs. The coroner reported the cause of death as septic poisoning from several large abscesses owing to the patient’s general septic condition. The managers at the close of their special inquiry reported that the patient was not handled in any rough manner.

At the Central Islip State Hospital a male patient who had been given parole of the grounds and was in the habit of taking long walks about the premises was found hanging by the neck in the woods some three miles distant.

At the Gowanda State Hospital two women patients committed suicide by hanging.”

SOURCE: Reprinted from State Commission in Lunacy, Nineteenth Annual Report, October 1, 1906 – September 30, 1907, Albany: J.B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1908, Pages 39-42.  http://books.google.com/