Damnation Island : Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York
by Horn, Stacy







Prologueix
I THE NEW YORK CITY LUNATIC ASYLUM
Opened On Blackwell's Island 1839, To Accommodate New York City's Lunatic Poor
1(90)
Reverend William Glenney French: The Blackwell's Island Episcopal Missionary from 1872 to 1895
3(17)
Sister Mary Stanislaus: Committed to the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island August 3, 1872, Diagnosis: Monomania
20(4)
Sister Mary Stanislaus Is Admitted into the Asylum
24(8)
The Trial of Sister Mary
32(12)
Suicide, Murder, and Accidental Deaths on the Rise in the Lunatic Asylum
44(16)
Lunacy Investigation: December 1880, Metropolitan Hotel, New York City
60(18)
Ten Days in a Mad-House, September 1887
78(13)
Nellie Bly
II THE WORKHOUSE
A Penal Institution For People Convicted Of Minor Crimes, Opened On Blackwell's Island In 1852
91(42)
New York City and the Unworthy Poor
93(15)
Superintendent of the Blackwell's Island Workhouse from 1886 to 1889
108(17)
William R. Stocking
A Workhouse Expose and Lawrence Dunphy: Superintendent of the Blackwell's Island Workhouse from 1889 to 1896
125(8)
III THE ALMSHOUSE
Completed In 1848, To House The Poor And Disabled Of New York City
133(30)
The Almshouse Complex, The End of the Line for Many
135(28)
IV THE HOSPITALS FOR THE POOR
In Operation Beginning 1832, To Serve The Sick People Of New York City, And The Inmates Of The Penitentiary, Workhouse, And Almshouse
163(24)
Penitentiary Hospital aka Island Hospital aka Charity Hospital aka City Hospital
165(22)
V THE PENITENTIARY
Completed In 1832, For People Convicted Of More Serious Crimes, And With Sentences Generally From Three To Six Months To Two Years, Although Sometimes More
187(50)
Sentenced to the Penitentiary December 6, 1862
189(14)
Adelaide Irving
The Old Gentlemen's Unsectarian Home, Sentenced to the Penitentiary December 23, 1889
203(13)
William H. Ramscar
The Shepherd's Fold, Sentenced to the Penitentiary February 20, 1880
216(21)
Edward Cowley
VI SEPARATING CHARITY FROM CORRECTION
New York City Divides The Department In Two In 1895
237(20)
The End of a Dangerous Conglomerate
239(18)
Epilogue
Blackwell's Island after 1895
257(8)
Acknowledgments265(2)
Appendix267(2)
Source Notes269(16)
Photograph and Map Credits285


Describes the history of modern day Roosevelt Island, originally called Blackwell's Island, which was bought in 1828 by New York City and used as a lunatic asylum, prison, hospital, workhouse and poorhouse and recreates what daily life was like for those trapped there.





*Starred Review* The purchase of Blackwell Island by the city of New York in 1828 was an act of great optimism. Located in the East River, the long, skinny island was intended as a utopian sanctuary for public charities and correctional facilities, and great plans were made for compassionately administered institutions, including a lunatic asylum, almshouse, workhouse, low-security prison, and hospitals. Once the plans were drawn, however, penny-pinching commissioners and corrupt bureaucrats took over, erected buildings, and filled them with unfortunates. As each enclosure opened, it quickly became crowded, and inmates soon suffered from inadequate heat, light, ventilation, meals, and nursing care. Many starved, drowned in the river, died in epidemics, or were killed in their cells. Horn (Imperfect Harmony, 2013) draws on reports from the era's clergy, undercover journalists, and government reformers to tell stories of unnecessary cruelty and the public abandonment of the old, the poor, the sick, and the mentally ill in nineteenth-century America. This is an essential-and heartbreaking-book for readers seeking to better understand contemporary public policy. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





Somber study of a dark, little-known episode in the history of New York, when Riker's Island wasn't the only warehouse for the condemned.It makes good sense, on reading Horn's (Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, 2013, etc.) latest, why the 2005 horror film Dark Water found so appropriate a setting on New York's Roosevelt Island. In the late 1800s, writes the author, that small chunk of land, barely 150 acres, saw four kinds of unfortunate denizens: the mad were shunted off to the island's Lunatic Asylum, the destitute to the Almshouse, the vagrant or indigent to the Workhouse, and the seriously criminal to the Penitentiary. Each offered its own version of a living hell, and despite reports by early whistleblowers, not much was done to improve the condition of the inmates. "You can have no idea…what an immense vat of misery and crime and filth much of this great city is!" exclaimed a social reformer who worked on the island, and Horn's account pain ts an exacting portrait of just how true that was—and how summary the judgments against the lower class could be. Of interest to students of Foucauldian history is the author's contrast of what was then called Blackwell's Island with facilities for the well-to-do, such as the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum near Central Park, with its well-appointed libraries, plush chairs, and expensive artwork. No such amenities were to be found on Blackwell's, which saw appalling levels of disease, starvation, child mortality, and other ills. Despite such demerits, as Horn writes, the rate of escape from the island was low and the level of recidivism, particularly among younger inmates, high: "At ten the boys are thieves," noted one official, "at fifteen the girls are all prostitutes." Horn engagingly explores a history that, perhaps surprisingly, extended into the 1960s, when the renamed island became a site for mixed-income housing. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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