Tag Archives: Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane

Canton Asylum a Good Value for the Government

Most Asylums Had More Amenities Than Canton Asylum

Most Asylums Had More Amenities Than Canton Asylum

When theĀ  subcommittee of [the] House Committee on Appropriations met to discuss Indian monies for 1924, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians came under discussion. Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edgar B. Meritt, asked for $40,000 for the asylum’s equipment and maintenance.

In his presentation of expenses, Meritt added this information:

“The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians has the custodial care of 90 patients whose hospitalization, in the majority of cases, will be during the period of their lives. This institution is maintained very efficiently on the appropriations estimated for, which is the same as allowed for the last fiscal year.

Patients Offset Many Asylum Expenses by Working, Such as These Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane

Patients Offset Many Asylum Expenses by Working, Such as These Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane

“The average annual cost, including employees, transportation, hospitalization, clothing, burials, the upkeep of the buildings and all incidentals is something less than $400 for each patient. The cost of the custodial care in State institutions ranges from $480 to $800 a year exclusive of transportation, clothing, and burial expenses in case of death. In private asylums the expenses are still greater with a larger list of exclusions.”

Unmarked Graves at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA

Unmarked Graves at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, GA

Meritt made a convincing case for the requested amount of money. Oddly, none of the committee members asked why Canton’s expenses were so much lower than any other institution’s. They may have been afraid of uncovering something they didn’t want to hear.

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Saving Money at the Insane Asylum

Patients Working in Laundry Room at Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1898

Patients Working in Laundry Room at Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1898

Most insane asylums tried to use patient labor as a way of holding down costs, or as a sort of occupational therapy. At the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, Dr. Harry Hummer had a real mission to hold down expenses, since he knew that his small facility didn’t have the economies of scale that larger institutions did.

Female patients generally worked on household tasks, like sewing and laundry. Susan Wishecoby, an epileptic patient, wrote about scrubbing the floors, and other women complained about the amount of work they had to do. Men usually worked in the gardens or helped with livestock. Dr. Hummer couldn’t actually force patients to work, but many did because it helped them pass the time. They may have also wanted to please the attendants or Dr. Hummer by appearing cooperative.

Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane, early 1900s

Patients Sewing at the Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane, early 1900s

Patients Picking Cotton at Alabama Insane Hospital

Patients Picking Cotton at Alabama Insane Hospital

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