Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

by Stacy Horn


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616205768
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 88,039
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Stacy Horn is the author of five nonfiction books, including Imperfect Harmony. Mary Roach has hailed her for “combining awe-fueled curiosity with topflight reporting skills.” Horn’s commentaries have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and she is the founder of the social network Echo. She lives in New York City. Her website is stacyhorn.com.          

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

I The New York City Lunatic Asylum

Opened on Blackwell's Island 1839, to Accommodate New York City's Lunatic Poor 1

Reverend William Glenney French: The Blackwell's Island Episcopal Missionary from 1872 to 1895 3

Sister Mary Stanislaus: Committed to the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island August 3, 1872, Diagnosis: Monomania 20

Sister Mary Stanislaus Is Admitted into the Asylum 24

The Trial of Sister Mary 32

Suicide, Murder, and Accidental Deaths on the Rise in the Lunatic Asylum 44

Lunacy Investigation December 1880, Metropolitan Hotel, New York City 60

Nellie Bly Ten Days in a Mad-House, September 1887 78

II The Workhouse

A Penal Institution for People Convicted of Minor Crimes, Opened on Blackwell's Island in 1852 91

New York City and the Unworthy Poor 93

Rev. William R. Stocking: Superintendent of the Blackwell's Island Workhouse from 1886 to 1889 108

A Workhouse Exposé and Lawrence Dunphy: Superintendent of the Blackwell's Island Workhouse from 1889 to 1896 125

III The Almshouse

Completed in 1848, to House the Poor and Disabled of New York City 133

The Almshouse Complex, The End of the Line for Many 135

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

Penitentiary Hospital aka Island Hospital aka Charity Hospital aka City Hospital 165

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

Adelaide Irving: Sentenced to the Penitentiary December 6, 1862 189

William H. Ramscar: The Old Gentlemen's Unsectarian Home, Sentenced to the Penitentiary December 23, 1889 203

Reverend Edward Cowley: The Shepherd's Fold, Sentenced to the Penitentiary February 20, 1880 216

VI Separating Charity from Correction

New York City Divides the Department in Two in 1895 237

The End of a Dangerous Conglomerate 239


Blackwell's Island after 1895 257

Acknowledgments 265

Appendix 267

Source Notes 269

Photograph and Map Credits 285

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