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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

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Asylum Hospital: 1915

Asylum Hospital: 1915

March 16, 1915. "Operating Room, Washington Asylum Hospital." More sanitary, one hopes, than the moldy glass plate recording the scene. View full size.


Other than the poor

Other than the poor attention to properly tying (and wearing!) their masks, and the mold encrustations, there is almost nothing in this picture that is not "up to code" for modern infection control. Even the light fixtures are covered!
Gloves, gowns, head covers, proper drapes obscuring all but the immediate operative field... We still have to use constant vigilance to enforce these things. These people were no less intelligent than we, and knew as much, at least, classical microbiology as any current surgeon. And unlike a modern surgeon they knew that avoiding sepsis depended on their technique, with no safety net.

The autoclave was mature technology, invented in 1879. Laundry was certainly something they knw how to do -- they probably ironed everything, too. There's no problem with reusing linen if done well.

And, just an FYI, more "superbugs" come from the factory farm and community in general than from the hospital, these days.

I Hope

Jeb70 mentioned sanitary conditions in hospitals and ended with the statement "Who knows? Years from now someone may look at a picture of modern day operating procedures and think, 'How backward those people were. They had no sense of cleanliness or sanitation.'" Given the rates of staph and other infections in our modern "sanitary" hospitals I certainly hope so.

Re: Spectator Sport

Not Crackerjacks -- Junior Mints. They're very refreshing!

Hard times

No antibiotics. Even sulfonamides were a newfangled fad not yet used much except against a few specific infections (e.g. Salvarsan). Few sterile use-and-discard implements (or even bandages), if any at all. No insurance.

Thanks, I'll take the 21st century. The only upside, no hospital superbugs. They weren't needed to kill a patient. Job could be done by any normal self-respecting bug.

The Rack

Yes, Downer is right.
It was called the ‘’Peanut Gallery’’.

Sanitary Conditions

I always cringe when I see pictures like these that were taken "back in the day." But really, the sanitation standards had increased so dramatically since the Civil War that there is almost no comparison. I certainly would not like to be operated upon using the sterilization procedures in this picture. Who knows? Years from now someone may look at a picture of modern day operating procedures and think, "How backward those people were. They had no sense of cleanliness or sanitation."

Insanitary and Antiquated

Washington Post, October 30, 1915.

Needs a New Hospital.

Asylum Superintendent Points Out Ill Conditions Without It.

Need for a new hospital for the Washington Asylum, Nineteenth and C streets southeast, is insisted upon in the annual report of L. F. Zinkhan, superintendent of the Washington Asylum and Jail, transmitted to the commissioners yesterday. This recommendation, with others from annual reports of department heads of District government, is to be printed and sent to congress.

Mr. [Louis] Zinkhan describes the present buildings at the Washington Asylum and Jail as "insanitary and antiquated." He declares during the past year there has been 50 per cent more patients cared for than there was room for. The year's total of cases treated is reported to have been 3,103, in addition to a large number treated at the jail.

The superintendent reports 54 births at the asylum this year and 354 deaths. Daily average beyond capacity. The accommodations there, he says are for 175 patients, but there has been a daily average population of 198 cases, with a maximum population for one day at 263.

“In the psychopathic wards we treated during the year 580 suspects. Of these 267 were transferred to the Government Hospital for the Insane. In the same wards there were also treated many cases of acute alcoholism and others addicted to morphinism. The latter class of cases should be treated in separate wards, for which we have no provisions.”

Mention is made of several improvements at the institution, including the growth of the training school, the completion of a new pathological and X-ray laboratory.

Recommendations for the hospital are enumerated below as follows: An operating-room nurse, a night supervisor, a dietician, increase in the housekeeper's compensation, a stenographer, operating-room expenses and a new refrigerator and ice chest for the hospital kitchen.

97 years of progress

Hard to believe this picture was taken so recently as my father was 6 in 1915. We must be thankful for the many improvements in medicine in such a relatively short span of time and be grateful to all the doctors in both research and treatment for their ability to keep us alive and well longer than ever before. Life is good.

Besides the mold

this is still one very creepy scene!!

Spectator Sport

The rack contraption on the left looks more like it's to seat operation observers than anything else, and you're to bring your own Crackerjacks.

THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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