Tag Archives: oleomargarine

Institutional Supply

Most Staff at Asylums Were Local

Most Staff at Asylums Were Local

The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians brought plenty of federal money into the local economy. However, as part of the larger Bureau of Indian Affairs, the institution also purchased many of its day-to-day items through governmental suppliers.

In a 1927 letter to the superintendent of the Warehouse for Indian Supplies in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Harry Hummer requested a couple of staples:

Oleomargarine Was a Butter Substitute

Oleomargarine Was a Butter Substitute

— “Oleomargarine, in 60-lb containers, artificially colored–1600 lbs.” He requested a 60-lb container every two weeks for the fiscal year.

— “Hams, smoked, 600 lbs.” He requested the meat in 200 lb. increments three times a year (November, January, and March). The asylum additionally raised its own cattle and hogs to supplement this order.

Institutional Cooking Required Full Time Staff

Institutional Cooking Required Full Time Staff

Dr. Hummer also bought cots, shoes, and clothing (often excess items that were extremely inexpensive) through federal channels. What he almost never obtained through the government, though, was labor. Attendants, cooks, laborers, etc. were almost always locals, though certain positions like the matron’s (as well as his own) were appointments within the Indian Service.

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Hospital Dining

In the early days of psychiatry, there were few medicines available to treat mental illness. Diet and exercise, along with work and light amusement, were often the only prescriptions a doctor could give.

Oregon State Insane Asylum Exercise Yard, 1905, courtesy Oregon State Hospital Records

Dr.  Harry Hummer

Dr. Harry Hummer

St. Elizabeths was under Congressional investigation for patient abuse in 1906. Dr. Harry Hummer, who later became superintendent of  the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, testified about the food served at St. Elizabeths.

Hummer said that sick patients were given an extremely liberal diet of eggs and milk: 17 dozen eggs daily and 35 gallons of milk for between 125 and 130 people, along with other food. Patients in the dining hall did not receive milk to drink, though they received food that used milk in preparation. Hummer also stated that employees complained about tough meat and that they could not eat the oleo (margarine).

Early Oleomargarine

Early Oleomargarine

Epileptics, who were considered insane by most doctors, ate at a special table in the dining hall. Hummer said that they were “not allowed to have anything that we think will upset them in the nature of corned beef or cabbage, and heavy indigestible food.”

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The Care and Feeding of Lunatics

Early Oleomargarine

Early Oleomargarine

In any large institution, food is a big deal. In 1903, the American Journal of Insanity (see 6/3/10 post) reported that Dr. J.C. Dunlop reviewed the diets provided by state supported institutions, and found them mainly satisfactory. Dr. Dunlop made some additional suggestions that he thought would be adequate under most circumstances. He recommended:

–Bread should be given at all meals.

–A minimum of 24 ounces of meat (before cooking and without bone) should be given to each patient per week.

–A fish dinner or fifth meat dinner should be given weekly.

–Porridge and milk should be given daily.

–A minimum of three pounds of potatoes should be given to each patient per week.

–A pound and a half of other fresh vegetables should be given to patients weekly.

–Tea or coffee should be given as desired twice daily to patients.

–Patients should receive a minimum of five ounces or butter or six ounces of margarine each week.

Patients who worked could be given more food as required.

Women Working in Field

Women Working in Field

Patients at Missouri State Insane Asylum, 1912

Patients at Missouri State Insane Asylum, 1912

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