The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered minds, Colonial Williamsburg, VA, was the first mental hospital in America. The Hospital admitted its first patient in 1773. It had 24 cells, which were not all filled until the 1800s. James Galt, formerly the keeper of the Public Gaol, was appointed head administrator.
This was the era of Restraints. The hospital had two missions. One, to cure the 'curable', and two, to confine the dangerous. The tools used to meet this purpose included a few medications, such as paregoric, ipecac and laudanum, certain old standards such as bloodletting, and free use of metal restraints.
The hospital acquired new physicians including John Minson Galt, and continued to expand into the next century. In the 1840s, the Moral Management approach came about. Attempts were made to humanize the treatment methods and the living conditions.
The hospital was renamed Eastern Lunatic Asylum, a place of refuge for people unable to survive in the outside world.
This was also the era of Phrenology, or the study of the form of human brain to determine character.
In 1841, the hospital acquired a new electrostatic machine.
In the Moral Management era, a non-restraint approach was pursued as far as possible, and patients were often 'rewarded' for good behavior. Treatment became more specialized, and the doctors were devoted to their patients full time.
John Minson Galt II, with twelve other superintendents of lunatic asylums across the US, formed the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, a forerunner of the APA. They also published the country's first psychiatric journal, The American Journal of Insanity.
The 1850s saw several changes under the supervision of John Minson Galt II. He publicly declared that the mentally ill were 'our brethren', started accepting slaves in the hospital, and proposed an overhaul of the system, suggesting placement of the mentally ill in the community as boarders. He was a man ahead of his time, and his plans were not well received.
The treatment of the mentally ill still centered around sedatives, and increasing use of Morphia frequently led to chronic constipation.
In 1862, the Union army took over and the hospital was sacked. It was repaired and re-expanded in 1868. African American patients were segregated to a facility in Richmond. This was the era of Custodial Care. Patients were encouraged to get physically active and worked to maintain the hospital. The hospital housed about 300 patients.
Gradually, the hospital became more a facility for the chronically ill, with fewer and fewer people being 'restored to community' each year. The era of restraints came back.
In 1885, a fire destroyed most of the hospital. The hospital was rebuilt, renamed the Eastern State Hospital and moved to a new location in 1937. It housed almost 2000 patients at this time. The old building was razed down in 1960.
A ceramic cup belonging to one of the patients was recovered by archaeologists during the site's excavation in 1972.
It said, simply, ' Think of me.'