Blog Posts - Medical History



Reservation Food

Native Americans ate what was on hand in the regions where they lived. (See last post.) Once they were forced onto reservations, their freedom to secure food was severely reined in. The government began to issue rations, partly in recognition that mu...

Changes in Native American Diet

Traditional Native American diets depended upon the foods available regionally, with some tribes depending primarily on hunting and others on agriculture. Most foods were minimally processed and fresh, though dried foods certainly played a part in wi...

More Food Changes

As Native Americans were forced onto reservations, they were also forced to abandon their healthy diets of fresh meat and produce in favor of canned goods and poor-quality staples. Their experience has ultimately been echoed throughout the country as...

The Four Humours

Claudius Galenus was a Greek philosopher and physician who practiced medicine among the Romans circa AD 160. Galen brought the approach known as Humourism to the mainstream. Humourism is a philosophical theory originating fro...
by Cognitive Consonance on Apr 3, 2014

Undercover Visitors

Though Lunacy Commissions and other visitors who provided oversight to asylums could be misled (see last post), word of actual conditions in an asylum nonetheless leaked out. Sometimes attendants talked, but more often, former patients spoke out agai...

Useful Visitors

Though many patients felt they didn’t get enough visitors, and others didn’t like being treated as entertainment for the thrill-seeking public (see last blog), certain visitors were supposed to help asylum patients. Most states set up a L...

Asylum Visitors

  Though few people wanted to be in an asylum–probably including its staff at times–many people did go to asylums either out of a sense of duty or of curiosity. Bands from a nearby town would often provide music for patients, while o...

Escape From Reality

Though most patients in insane asylums could not escape physically (see last two posts), doctors may have inadvertently caused them to lose touch with reality by dosing them with opium and other narcotics. In The Actions of Neurotic Medicines in Insa...

Children At Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane

It seems incredible to think of very young children being committed to insane asylums, but this idea was accepted many years ago. Children with misunderstood conditions (autism, epilepsy, etc.) might exhibit symptoms which seemed to indicate insanity...

Another Disadvantaged Group

The Native American patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians were at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts at other asylums; Native Americans had few rights and little voice in what authorities might choose to do to “help&...

Psychiatric Care Was Seldom Enjoyable

Though the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians offered little psychiatric care for its patients, they may have been better off without much of what was offered to patients elsewhere over the years. One patient at the Missouri State Lunatic Asylum wrote...

Deficits in Care

Inspectors regularly toured the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, and generally found the buildings in order. Even non-medical men, however, could see early on that the institution wasn’t really fulfilling its purpose. A report by James McLaugh...

Medical Attention at Canton Asylum

At many asylums, medical attention was easier to give than psychiatric attention; the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians was no exception. In his 1906 report, the asylum’s physician, Dr. John Turner, describes both the mental and physical conditi...

Asylum Activities

When the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians had a small patient population, physical care was very likely good. The asylum’s physician, Dr. Turner, had as thorough a knowledge of general medicine as any other regional practitioner, and was enthus...

Adoptees Are Reminded They Are Adopted When…

You Know You Are Adopted When…. Most adoptees do not think of themselves as adopted during their day to-day activities. However, there are times the 2×4 adopted plank hits the adoptee over their head – boink! – reminding them...
by Adoption Journey Talk on Dec 11, 2013

Dietary Considerations

All asylums operated within budgets, and most had to make difficult choices about which services and personnel to provide and which to skimp on or delete. One reason (among several) that early asylums used patient labor was because it saved money tha...

Valuable Plants

Though produce and meat constituted the bulk of regularly preserved and stored food, other plants and herbs were also important to Native Americans. Many modern consumers know the benefits of teas made from chamomile, mint, and and sage, for example,...

Indefinite Definitions

One of the reasons eugenics laws were so disturbing (see last two posts) is because their targets were so loosely defined. Harry Laughlin’s Model Eugenical Sterilization Law in 1914 spelled out just how nebulous the so-called “undesirable...

A Notorious Case

As eugenics became more popular (see last post), sterilization laws were adopted in many states. One of the most notorious and tragic cases involving forced sterilization was Carrie Buck’s. In 1927, Buck was the first person to be sterilized un...

Insanity Mixed With Other Issues

Dr. Harry Hummer’s concern about releasing female patients of childbearing age (see last post) shows that he was looking at factors beyond a patient’s ability to live comfortably outside asylum walls. Hummer was neither alone nor unusual...


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