The First Lunatic Hospitals

Cornerstone of Pennsylvania Hospital

Cornerstone of Pennsylvania Hospital

In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin founded Pennsylvania Hospital to “care for the sick, poor, and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia.” It opened in 1753, and six of its first patients were “lunaticks” who needed psychiatric care.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, often called the “Father of American Psychiatry,” became involved with the hospital about 30 years after its founding. Though he believed strongly in purging, blood letting and “twirling,” his treatment methods were considerable more humane than most practices of the time. Rush forced the hospital to stop chaining its most serious lunatic cases in unheated cells, and minimized other restraints like cuffs. He also helped stop the townspeople from coming to the hospital to watch the insane patients as a form of entertainment.

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