Tag Archives: insane asylums

Two Causes of Insanity

In ancient times, insanity was seen as a result of spiritual forces working against an individual. A god or demon could either inhabit a body and manifest in some way, or merely cause problems for the victim via spiritual power. … Continue reading

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Other Families

Early superintendents of insane asylums asked for large, beautiful facilities amid a park-like setting, because they thought the environment within imposing structures would help cure their patients. Asylums were built to serve the poor and middle class, rather than the … Continue reading

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Happy Families

Asylum superintendents went to great lengths to present their institutions as surrogate homes for patients. They spoke of the nice rooms, pleasant activities, pretty landscaping, and structured schedules that would restore disordered minds. Superintendents saw themselves as father figures, head … Continue reading

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Amazing Space

Society has always had to (somehow) accommodate the needs of the insane. In colonial America, families usually supervised members with mental problems, and the community helped as they were able, or tolerated their odd behavior. As people moved into cities … Continue reading

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Living the Life

Many insane asylums were huge institutions filled with hundreds of patients. This was never true of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, which seldom housed more than 90 patients at its most crowded. Though the facility couldn’t boast too much about … Continue reading

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And Why Not Shackles?

Though most insane patients were restrained in earlier times, by the late 1800s/early 1900s, restraints were much more prevalent in the U.S. than in England. This was partially due to a real philosophical difference as to what was best for … Continue reading

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Lunatic Balls

As part of their treatment, patients in insane asylums were sometimes allowed recreational opportunities. The New York Times (1874) described an annual ball at the New-Haven, Connecticut lunatic asylum with typical 19th century  indifference to patients’ feelings: “Twenty couples entered … Continue reading

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Come and See Crazy People

In the 1800s and early 1900s, many insane asylums  (as well as prisons and orphanages) were treated as tourist attractions. This practice had started long ago, when visitors to Bedlam in London, paid a penny to see the lunatics there. … Continue reading

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Crazy People in Custody

Places to confine insane people had existed in the U.S. for many years, but superintendents of insane asylums usually acted independently of each other. A casual meeting between two superintendents in Philadelphia led to the creation of an Association of … Continue reading

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