Nineteenth Century American Asylums


A History in Postcards

Alma Wynelle Deese and Cathy Faye, editors

Pages: 144; Size: 7″ x 10″
Series: Center for the History of Psychology Series

SKU: 978-1-937378-73-8 Category: Tags: ,


In the nineteenth century, several institutions were established in the United States to house and care for the mentally ill. By 1880, 139 “asylums” and “mental hospitals” had been created using both private and public funds, and by 1890, every state had built one or more publicly supported mental hospitals. Although early American asylums were often underfunded and crowded, they were often one of the few options for those suffering from mental illness. These large and grandiose facilities could therefore serve as a place of refuge. In addition, these asylums were significant places for research and teaching in early medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.

Postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, coinciding with the establishment of many “state lunatic hospitals.” Featuring more than 300 images of early public and private asylums as presented in picture postcards, this book offers a fascinating view of these grand structures, the expansive grounds and gardens they occupied, and their unique architectural features. The images are accompanied by brief historical descriptions of each institution, along with information about their current status. Together, the images and text offer the reader an opportunity to explore the space and places of early mental health care of the United States.

About the authors

Alma Wynelle Deese

Alma Wynelle Deese graduated from Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and the University of Mississippi Graduate School. She worked as a psychologist at several institutions, including Eastern State Hospital, for thirty-four years.  Retired, she now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Cathy Faye

Cathy Faye is the assistant director of the Center for the History of Psychology at The University of Akron.

Additional information




Center for the History of Psychology Series


Alma Wynelle Deese, Cathy Faye

Pub Date