Places to confine insane people had existed in the United States 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 Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane in 1844.
The group immediately began sharing information on such topics as:
“The Treatment of Incurables”
“The Relation Between Phrenology and Insanity”
“The Utility of Night Attendants and the Propriety of Not Locking Doors of Patients’ Rooms During the Night”
Phrenology was an early attempt to explain brain function. Practitioners attempted to read a person’s character from the shape of the skull, particularly from its bumps, peaks, and valleys. This pseudo-science was developed by Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) and was popular into the latter part of the 19th century.