Bad Management

Investigations into insane asylums, hospitals, prisons, and other public institutions were nothing unusual. Any place that houses unhappy inmates will generate plenty of complaints–some warranted and some not.

Canton Asylum had received a routine inspection in early 1903 and apparently passed with little comment on anyone’s part. It was undoubtedly still so new and small that there wouldn’t have been much to find wrong.

However,  an established institution in the nation’s capitol couldn’t avoid scrutiny. In 1906, St. Elizabeths Hospital was targeted by the newly established Medico-Legal Society, who said that St. Elizabeths abused patients. Congress investigated the allegations and gathered over 2,000 pages of testimony–which was often lively, pointed, and contradictory. Some of the patients and their families spoke up on behalf of the care they received at St. Elizabeths, and the motivations of the Medico-Legal Society were questioned in the city’s newspapers.

Patients at St. Elizabeths, circa 1917, courtesy  Library of Congress

Patients at St. Elizabeths, circa 1917, courtesy Library of Congress

Congressional Report on St. Elizabeths, National Archives

Congressional Report on St. Elizabeths, National Archives

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