Hartford, CT. 1862. Loose_leaf. 20 x 12.5 cm. Three page letter, folded. A poignant handwritten letter from Winifred A. Johnson (1820-1887), a patient at the Hartford Retreat, to her lawyer Theron Carey, suggesting her Doctor, the notable John S. Butler, MD (1803-1890), proposes the release from her present confinement. Winifred, a former school teacher, states she has been housed in the retreat for one year and two days, and wishes to go stay with her nephew Edward Yeoman and his wife Ellen. Winifred presses her case stating - "I long to see some one who has a drop of my own blood, and who remembers those I mourn for; - I long to sit once more at a family table."
Notable in the letter is the mention of Dr. Butler. The Hartford Retreat was the 3rd mental institution in the U.S., chartered in 1822. Butler, a Yale graduate, took control of the institution in 1843 and helped change the way in which the mentally insane were treated, emphasizing humane care designed to promote the patients return to reason. Butler sympathized with "old and hopeless cases" who needed a "quite, kindly resting place." In 1860, Butler hired Frederic Law Olmstead to expand the facilities which in turn increased the state-subsidized population, changing the institutions focus from curative to custodial. Clean copy, notable folds. Cream paper, dark brown ink. Very good. Item #2054