Power at an Insane Asylum

Dr. John Gray

Dr. John Gray

Superintendents were responsible for almost everything at an asylum. Though their responsibility might bog them down with administrative details, it also made their word law in the asylum. John Gray, superintendent of the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, was arguably one of the most powerful of these powerful men.

Gray fired anyone on his staff who disagreed with him, and carried on ill-natured vendettas against fellow doctors and superintendents whose policies he disliked. Gray enjoyed the limelight and was criticized for spending too much time testifying in trials as an expert witness. He edited the American Journal of Insanity for many years, but was often accused of refusing to publish articles about insanity and its treatment when they differed from his own.

Gray spent 34 years at Utica. In 1886, after testifying as an expert witness, Gray returned to his office in the evening. Henry Remshaw, who may have been temporarily insane, walked into Gray’s office and shot him in the face. Gray never fully recovered from the attack and spent his remaining four years of life in poor health.

New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica

New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica

Utica Crib, used for disruptive patients

Utica Crib, used for disruptive patients

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