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Featured Article Of The Week

Philadelphia State Hospital


In 1903, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted the "Bullitt Bill", which required each county to build an maintain a facility exclusively for the care of the insane of the area. Private facilities, such as those at Friends Hospital and the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital had existed for some time. Regional state facilities, like Norristown State Hospital, were active and standing, but were found to be overcrowded and unable to accommodate the growing need. In response to this, the City of Philadelphia purchased farmland in the northeast section of the county, in a rural district then known as Byberry. There, as a measure of expanding the public welfare, they established a city-funded, inmate run farm, known simply as "Byberry Farms". This facility was intended to supply food for other public institutions in the city, such as Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia Almshouse (then known as Old Blockley Almshouse). Shortly after the purchase of the land, six inmates from the overcrowded Blockley Almshouse in the city were chosen to work at the agricultural facility. This program was done in cooperation with the physicians at Blockley Almshouse, then headed by Dr. Jeffrey A. Jackson MD, and would thereafter become known as the "colony plan". The site of Byberry was originally intended for patients suffering from Consumption (Pulmonary Tuberculosis), who would be sent from Old Blockley, and thus free additional space for patients suffering from chronic and undifferentiated insanity. As it happens, this medical dogma coincides with the early 20th century perception that Consumption could be treated with "fresh air" and exercise. Click here for more...