Category Archives: medical history

New Reasons for Insanity

Many (white) observers over the years believed that insanity was rare among Native Americans. Their conclusion was born out during the Indian Bureau survey that tried to assess the need for a special asylum for insane Indians; among the thousands … Continue reading

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The Insane as News Items

Though early alienists did a great deal to de-stigmatize insanity and help families feel better about seeking help for their mentally ill members, insanity was still a delicate subject that most families preferred to keep private. Asylum superintendents understood this. … Continue reading

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Public Interest in Insane Asylums

The construction of an insane asylum was usually a welcome event for most towns or cities, since the work meant jobs and a continued money flow into the local economy. Newspapers had little but praise for these projects, as the … Continue reading

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The Chronic Insane

  Alienists stressed that the prompt treatment of insanity was imperative to a cure. They cautioned the public that it was far wiser to bring an afflicted person to an asylum for a cure as soon as possible, rather than … Continue reading

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Evolution of Treatment for the Insane

Most modern readers would consider the mid-1800s a fairly rough and rugged period, inhabited by correspondingly rough and rugged individuals. However, changes in the treatment of insanity during this period point to the idea that people in the middle 1800s … Continue reading

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What Caused Insanity?

The causes for insanity that early alienists compiled can seem amusing–as well as appalling–to modern readers. Almost anything, from disappointment in love, financial reverses, over-study, improper diet, use of alcohol or tobacco, and masturbation could derail mental health, it seemed. … Continue reading

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New Ideas

Food was not the only way to treat physical illnesses (see last few posts), though healthy eating may have been the least harmful way to ward off sickness. The turn of the 20th century saw many innovations and experimental treatments … Continue reading

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Food Woes

Choices concerning Bran Flakes and Shredded Krumbles (see last post) weren’t the only food problems patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians suffered. They, like most Native Americans, had already lost a basic underpinning of life–their traditional foods. This … Continue reading

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Unfired Foods

As generations move away from them, old ideas become new again. Just as foraging has become popular in the past few years (see last post), so has the idea of eating raw foods. George J. Drews wrote about “unfired food” … Continue reading

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Water Closets

Ordinary homes during the late 1800s and well into the 1900s had few conveniences (see last post); unlike homes today, a dedicated bathroom was a luxury. A largely rural population typically used an outhouse, which could be indifferently built at … Continue reading

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