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Mission Statement

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The Mission

The mission of this site is to archive both historical and current information on asylums across the United States and around the world.

The Statement

This site is dedicated to the history of asylums in all forms. The term of asylum is applied to not only what is commonly thought of: mental hospitals, but can also be applied to sanatoriums, state training schools, reform schools, almshouses, and orphanages. These institutions have and continue to play a major part in today's society.

Everyone throughout the United States and in many other countries has in one way or another felt the touch of these institutions. These places have both directly and indirectly affected people and their families. They have shaped lives and created many popular myths about them.

With all that in mind, this site was created to help in the historical research of any institutions that can be classified as an asylum. It was created for both serious researchers, those who are doing genealogical research, and people with an interest in asylums.

Featured Article Of The Week

Fulton State Hospital

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In 1847, the Missouri General Assembly enacted legislation to establish an asylum for the insane in the central area of the state. This institution was to provide physical care for societal "lunatics." Several counties were encouraged to bid for this institution. Callaway County was able to produce $11,500 and 500 acres of land, thus winning the bid. Fulton State Hospital, the first public mental institution west of the Mississippi River in 1851, admitted its first 67 patients in December.

The original building was three stories high, excluding the basement and attic. It contained 72 rooms and housed the same number of patients. The center of the building was reserved for a patient dining area, and lodging rooms for officers, attendants, and laborers. All employees of the hospital were required to live on the grounds, and had to obtain special permission from the Superintendent in order to leave. The hospital was almost totally self-sufficient at this time. By maintaining sewing rooms, vegetable and straw houses, raising their own food, pumping water from underground wells and streams, and making their own soap, the hospital was similar to a small city, requiring few resources from outside its grounds.

According to State Biennial Reports, several probable causes of mental illness were determined in the first cases admitted. Among the more unusual causes were indigestion, religious anxiety, disappointed love, intense study, and jealousy. Epilepsy and tuberculosis were the two most common causes. As psychiatry was virtually an unexplored field, primary emphasis was placed on the physical needs of the individuals and maintaining a system of order within the hospital. Click here for more...

Featured Image Of The Week

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The asylum itself was built from bricks which were fired on-site from clay dug on-site. Herman Haerlin, a student of Frederick Law Olmstead (the designer of Central Park), was responsible for the design of the hospital and its grounds. By the turn of the twentieth century, orchards and farmland were maintained on the property, tended to by hospital residents and employees.

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Featured Video

The following nearly thirty minute video on Woodward State School & Hospital created by Ray Stewart of WOI-TV Ames, Iowa along with Iowa State University. It is part of the "In Our Care," a 13 week series of documentaries filmed inside Iowa's state institutions. The series won the 1952 National Sylvania Television Award for Production Excellence. The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities is responsible for uploading it to YouTube.

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Asylum News   (news you can edit!)

February 7, 2016 Clarinda struggles to fill former hospital

The 128-year-old former mental health institute in the small southwest Iowa city of Clarinda isn’t your typical real estate opportunity, and so far no one is rushing to move in. More than seven months after the state closed the Clarinda Mental Health Institute, much of the sprawling building remains empty, including entire floors that haven’t been used in decades.

February 1, 2016 Efforts continue to preserve other parts of former Peoria State Hospital grounds

Christina Morris happily remembers Sunday morning breakfasts with her grandparents, followed by visits to the peaceful cemeteries on the grounds of the Peoria State Hospital, where some family members are buried. “My interest with the state hospital started when I was about 7 years old,” Morris said in a recent interview. “When I would come onto the grounds (my grandfather) would say that this was a place of special people. (By special) I thought he meant giants, because these buildings were so big and beautiful and immaculate to me. I just was enamored by how beautiful it was.”

January 7, 2016 That Time The United States Sterilized 60,000 Of Its Citizens

Not too long ago, more than 60,000 people were sterilized in the United States based on eugenic laws. Most of these operations were performed before the 1960s in institutions for the so-called “mentally ill” or “mentally deficient.” In the early 20th century across the country, medical superintendents, legislators, and social reformers affiliated with an emerging eugenics movement joined forces to put sterilization laws on the books.

January, 6, 2016 Pa. hires firm to develop plan for Harrisburg State Hospital site

Harrisburg, PA-The state has hired a Lancaster planning company to help it figure out what to do with the former Harrisburg State Hospital, which closed 10 years ago. Since closing in 2006, the hospital complex has housed state workers from the state police, Department of General Services and the Department of Human Services. It is now part of the larger DGS Annex property, which encompasses 303 acres across Harrisburg and Susquehanna Township.

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