Not So Undercover

Blackwell's Island Lunatic Ball, 1865

Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Ball, 1865

The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians had frequent visitors, who were welcome to tour the facility during visiting hours. (See last two posts about visitors.) When the editor of the Hudsonite showed up unannounced–and not on a visiting day–he was nonetheless welcomed and given a tour by the asylum’s financial clerk, Charles Seely.

Nurses' Sitting Room, circa 1903, Medfield Insane Asylum, courtesy Harvard Art Museum

Nurses’ Sitting Room, circa 1903, Medfield Insane Asylum, courtesy Harvard Art Museum

In turn, the editor wrote a glowing report for his readers in which he told them that the asylum “fairly shone” and that “from the basement throughout the wards, in the kitchen and dining rooms, everything was bright and cheery.” Most visitors were inclined to be pleased with the asylum, and it was not until the few years before the end of its existence that the asylum began to regularly receive less than positive reports.

 

 

Ready for a Badminton Game, circa 1875, These People May be Visitors, Patients, or Staff

Ready for a Badminton Game, circa 1875, These People May be Visitors, Patients, or Staff

Though the Canton Asylum did not put on public balls and other activities the way some asylums did, guests of the professional staff were welcomed. The financial clerk’s wife and Dr. Turner’s wife hosted their friends as they might in an ordinary household, and the Sioux Valley News reported that they once jointly entertained 40 guests at a party where everyone played card games and enjoyed refreshments. In a time when most asylum staffs resided at their places of employment, it is understandable that they entertained friends there. Many superintendents felt that doing so helped provide a family atmosphere that benefited the patients.

 

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