Superintendents and staff were proud of their facilities and generally welcomed the public. Often, model patients would be allowed to congregate around visiting areas so that visitors would get a positive impression of the facility. The best wards were usually the easiest to get to, for the same reason. What were often called “back wards” were for the more difficult patients, and casual visitors seldom went there. These policies usually worked, and most visitors were favorably impressed. When Charles Dickens visited Boston Lunatic Hospital in 1842, he said:
“Every patient in this asylum sits down to dinner every day with a knife and fork; and in the midst of them sits the gentleman whose manner of dealing with his charges I have just described. At every meal, moral influence alone restrains the more violent among them from cutting the throats of the rest.”
It is not likely that this calmness prevailed throughout the building or at all meals, but the asylum certainly looked good at first glance.