And (Public Hospital, 1773, Williamsburg)
I think I’m being followed.
No, I’m serious. You'll find out by who at the end of the blog.
While in Williamsburg, Dan and I decided to go to the museums. We like to take in the Abby B. Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. I was especially excited because the Folk Art Museum had an exhibit focusing on trade art: signs and trade figures from earlier periods. As you may remember I did a little bit of research in that area earlier.
There is construction going on to create a new home and a new entrance for the museums.
But for the time being, you still need to go through the madhouse to get to them.
That’s right. I said you need to go through the madhouse to get to the museums.
Its real name is the 1773 Public Hospital (pictured above). It was the first facility devoted solely to the treatment of the mentally ill in the Colonies. Today, half of the building contains exhibits pertaining to the treatment of people suffering from mental or emotional illnesses.
I find out few images so you can get the picture.
As you can see below, the 1773 version of the hospital was not all that comfortable. But then again, sleeping on a mat on the floor was not all that unusual in that era. Servants, enslaved people, and farmers most likely did it all the time. My sense is only the well-to-do were worthy of beds that did not touch the floor.
And please notice the chamber pot and the chains.
Things got slightly better at the hospital by 1845. It was more common by then to have a bed off the floor, but patients also got a desk and writing materials, and - hey! what's that? - a violin (or other musical instrument) if they happened to enjoy music.
There also are displays of various devices used to "treat" the patients. I like to go through the Public Hospital but now, having worked on Seeing the Elephant and done research on the topic of mental health and hospitals in the mid-1860s, I go through the exhibits saying things like, “Oh, look, Dan! A Utica crib.”
Here's a sample of the conversation that often ensues:
Dan: A Utica crib? What’s that for?
Me: If you’re out of control, you would be forced to lie down inside it and locked in until you calmed down.
Dan: I don’t think I’d calm down. Ever. Can we go see the other museums now?
Dan's discomfort is right on the button. The Utica crib was more like an instrument of torture rather than treatment for the ill.
However, if you want to learn more about the Public Hospital, this blog is very helpful.
The good news is you can avoid the Public Hospital by taking a left instead of a right when you enter. Going left takes you to the elevator that brings you downstairs to the other museums. It's so cool to visit underground museums. Or is that just me?
So we toured the Folk Art Museum that day.
When we got to the exhibit about signs and trade figures, my eyes nearly bugged out a la Bugs Bunny.
Because there he was.
Yep, It's George L. Fox in his Humpty Dumpty character.
I swear this guy is following me by showing up in random museums.
Either that, or he's pitching to get a starring role in the next Saint Maggie book.
Putting Fox in a book just might happen because I am gathering a great deal of information about him.
You might recall that when I did some initial research, I had questions about what his image was used for. Well, a book I purchased after that blog, and the information accompanying the figure at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, confirmed that his image as Humpty Dumpty was used to sell tobacco. In the case of the figure at the museum, he was selling a 5-cent cigar named after philanthropist George W. Child (the name is in the center of the figure’s costume). Also, the Fox statue probably was displayed outside a store owned by J. Wertheimer.
But, wow, this guy keeps cropping up here and there (i.e., following me) and he fascinates me for some odd reason I have yet to discern.
Moral of the story: when you go on vacation you never know what or who you’re going to run into. Again and again and again.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder