This is a special post co-authored by Jeremy Burman and Jennifer Bazar. It is co-hosted at both the Advances in the History of Psychology (AHP) and FieldNotes blogs.
On Thursday we were given a unique opportunity to tour the interior of the building that was originally opened as the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, NY. Built in 1843 to house the state’s so-called insane, the building remains an imposing example of Greek Revival architecture complete with six 48′ tall limestone columns flanking the main entrance.
We began the day in the contemporary institution on the property, the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center. Within the building is displayed a number of historical photographs and furniture (including a decorative fireplace!) from the original building. Among this collection was a large painting of Amariah Brigham, the institution’s first medical superintendent, which had been commissioned by some of the patients. Brigham was extremely influential in asylum history: he was one of the founders of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions (precursor to American Psychiatric Association), launched the American Journal of Insanity (precursor to the American Journal of Psychiatry), and created several unique items including a phrenological hat and the Utica crib. Continue reading AHP & FieldNotes @ Utica’s “Old Main”
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The April 2010 issue of Social History of Medicine contains a number of articles on topics related to the history of psychology and the history of psychiatry. These include pieces on insanity and the right to marry in nineteenth century England, concerns surrounding mentally unfit soldiers during World War Two, and the importance of an individual’s capacity to work to psychosurgery practices in the early twentieth century. A further article explores the psychiatric classifications of criminals in New York State in the first half of the twentieth century (by Stephen Garton, right). Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Capacity to Marry: Law, Medicine and Conceptions of Insanity,” by Ezra Hasson. Continue reading HoP in Social History of Medicine
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The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just released its January 2010 issue online. Included in this issue is an article by Fulbright scholar Lawrence B. Goodheart. In “From Cure to Custodianship of the Insane Poor in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut” Goodheart provides an account of life at the Hospital for the insane at Middletown, Connecticut (pictured above). Connecticut, Goodheart argues, was the exception among Northeastern states in that it did not open a public institution for the insane until the latter half of the nineteenth century. In documenting the institution’s history Goodheart, examines how initiatives meant to cure individuals and return them to society in a timely manner failed. Rather, custodianship became the norm. The abstract to this article reads:
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Connecticut was the exception among the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic states in not founding a public institution for the insane until after the Civil War when it opened the Hospital for the Insane at Middletown in 1868, a facility previously neglected by scholars. The state had relied on the expedient of subsidizing the impoverished at the private Hartford Retreat for the Insane that overtaxed that institution and left hundreds untreated. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, well meaning officials oversold the idea that the Middletown site would promote cures and be cost effective. Continue reading “From Cure to Custodianship”