Fun at the Asylum

Patients Putting on a Play, Long Island State Hospital

Especially in their early years, most asylums took pride in offering patients light entertainment of various sorts, to help them get their minds off whatever had brought on their troubles. Many asylums had libraries with books and current magazines for patients, and staff encouraged reading, letter-writing, fancy sewing, and other calm pursuits. The community often took an interest in the local asylum, with local churches volunteering to sing and lead Bible studies there. Asylums also budgeted for lectures, magic lantern shows, and movies.

Social Room at Arizona Insane Asylum

Chapel in Asylum, 1896, courtesy Library of Congress

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