Category Archives: Investigations & Inspections

1911 Investigation

Governor Walter E. ClarkJoseph Von Kowski was adjudged insane in Tanana on March 13, 1911 and admitted to Morningside Hospital on April 15, 1911. He only stayed at the hospital for a short time, escaping on July 15. He subsequently wrote a letter to the matron of the Fairbanks Jail alleging that Morningside was “worst than any slaughterhouse from the beginning of the World” and that patients were “kept as slaves.” He also maintained that patients were tied up and beaten.

Walter Clark (right), Alaska’s first territorial governor, went to Morningside and spent 4 days “investigating  conditions at the asylum”, where he conferred with Edward Dixon, the Department of the Interior inspector who also conducted the 1909 inspection.

The following documents detail the complaint and investigation.

Von Kowski Complaint: September 21, 9122 (0), Governor Clark Letter: December 11, 1911 (724), Dixon Inspection Report: December 29, 1911 (825)

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1909 Dixon Investigation Report

Henry Waldo Coe and his partners (the Sanitarium Company) began providing mental health care to Alaskans in 1904. Prior to winning their first contract, they operated Crystal Springs Sanitarium which provided care to private-pay patients.

The pictures below show how the hospital changed as it morphed into Morningside Hospital, going from private-pay patients to government contract supported care of Alaskans. These images are from an October, 1909 investigation report on the care of Alaskan patients at Crystal Springs Sanitarium. The report, written by Edward W. Dixon, is from US Department of the Interior records at the National Archives II in College Station, MD. You can read the full report and see additional photos here – 1909 Dixon Inspection Report (581).

The changes in the architecture are striking.

 

 

The Massachusetts Building (Crystal Springs Sanitarium) with the Nurses Cottage (to the left).

 

 

 

 

 

Morningside Asylum building, where Alaskan patients were housed.

 

 

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Posting Morningside Administrative Records

We’ve amassed a large collection of material from our research at the National Archives II in Maryland. The documents are primarily administrative correspondence between Morningside Hospital and administrators at the U S Department of the Interior Office of Territorial Affairs. These documents include information on patients (admissions, discharges, diagnoses, deaths, citizenship, assets, etc.), complaints and investigations, inspections, and personnel issues.

I’m going to begin posting the US DOI reports on the blog on a regular basis. They are fascinating reading and provide insight into mental health care in the first half of the 20th century. You can find the first report (all 67 pages) in the next blog post, on the 1909 Dixon Investigation.

If you download a document, please take a few minutes to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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1915 Investigation

Many of the recently discovered burial sites and death certificates were from the early years at Morningside Hospital. In May, I wrote an article  about the Department of the Interior’s 1915 investigation into the care provided at the hospital. In March of 1915, the judicial committee of the Alaska Territorial Legislature issued a report criticizing the facility and demanding that care be improved. Dr. Viola May Coe of Morningside Hospital denied the accusations and asserted that patients were well cared for. Read More »

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Patient Photos: 1935 Investigation

Over the years, the Department of the Interior conducted a number of investigations of Morningside Hospital. The photographs taken as part of these investigations are one of the few sources of images of patients that we’ve found.  Here are a few from the 1935 investigation.

One of the Men's Wards

One of the Men's Wards

Women Patients Doing Needlepoint

Women Patients Doing Needlepoint

One of the Women's Wards

One of the Women's Wards

Also posted in 1930-1949, Patient Photos, Quality of Care | Leave a comment