Posts Tagged ‘Asylum’

Insane Christmas: Who’s The Crazy One Here?

December 21, 2009
Norther Hospital-Wisconsin (Image from

Northern Hospital - WI (Image from

**The crazy is below the spider web image.



A Description in Detail of the Christmas Tree and Entertainment Given the Insane at the Northern Hospital — The Beautiful Decorations — The Pleasure of the Patients — Dr. Pember’s “Cobwebs” — A Fine Institution.

The Northern Hospital on Christmas Eve was the scene of the most enjoyable festivities, the occasion being the annual Christmas tree and entertainment given the patients of the institution. For some weeks previous to the festivities Dr. Wiggington and his assistants had been buying presents and also receiving them from friends and relatives of the patients throughout the state, and had spared no pains in arranging every part of the entertainment in detail so that when Christmas eve arrived all of the patients were on the eve of expectation for the concert and the distribution of the presents. At about 7 o’clock the patients marched from their different wards to the music of the orchestra and were seated in the chapel. This room presented a remarkably beautiful appearance.

Wisconsin Christmas Tree 1895

Image from the Wisconsin Historical Society

Near the north end of the room stood the large Christmas tree, which, as well as the platform near by, was heavily laden with presents many of which were rich and costly. Extending from the tree to every corner of the room were drapings of evergreens and arranged on these were fancy candles which when lighted added not a little to the beauty of the scene. Previous to the distribution of the presents a musical program was rendered by the attendants and orchestra which the patients evidently enjoyed thoroughly for they were not backward in expressing their appreciation at times by applause. But their greatest delight was manifested when Dr. Wiggington announced that the presents would be distributed. With very few exceptions the faces of all lighted up with signs of most intense interest and anxiety and if any one thinks an insane person is not capable of appreciating kindness and work done in his behalf he is greatly mistaken. The tree contained everything, from a cornucopia to a gold watch, and the poor fellow who got nothing but the former was apparently just as much pleased as she who was made the recipient of the latter. Men over sixty years of age appeared as pleased over the presentation of a simple gift as the little boy of four who received his box of nine-pins. Many of the patients, however, received articles of wearing apparel and two, Mrs. West and Miss Brodie, each received a gold watch and chain.

Really, this next part makes me wonder if Dr. Pember worked at the hospital, or was an inmate there!

Another present worthy of mention was an elegant box of cobwebs received by Dr. Pember who was made the victim of a good joke which many of the patients as well as attendants enjoyed. It appears that the doctor has a great habit of going around the building and upsetting chairs, tables, etc., in search of cobwebs for which it is alleged he has a great abhorrence. As a sort of a take off on his pet pleasure the attendants gathered some cobwebs and gave the doctor a carefully packed box of them.

Miss Fannie Brown, the pianist, who officiated at the entertainment, received some of Chopin’s music, copies of Beethoven’s Sonatas and a book entitled, “The Organ of Home.” Others who kindly assisted in providing entertainment received presents of more or less value, and were made to fell happy and at home. It is estimated that in all about $700 worth of presents were distributed. Messrs. Brightrall, Roberts and Anderson, the gentlemen supervisors, and Misses Mitchell, Schultz and Casey, the lady supervisors, Harry Baum, the druggist, T.J. Vaughn, the steward, Mr. Neville, the warden, Miss Hale, the matron, Dr. Wiggington and his amiable wife and every officer and attendant connected with the institution deserve a deal of credit for the work which they certainly must have done to make the entertainment a success. One thing is noticeable at the hospital and that is the kindly feeling which all of the patients have for Dr. and Mrs. Wigginton, and judging from the Christmas entertainment the inmates may well cherish in their hearts a deal of respect for the head officer of the institution as well as his worthy wife both of whom make the Northern hospital a place that must, to the unfortunate person deprived of his reason, seem like “Home Sweet Home.”

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Dec 26, 1885

Northern Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane

From the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services website:

Winnebago Mental Health Institute (WMHI) is located on the scenic west shore of Lake Winnebago, four miles north of Oshkosh.  The purchase price for the original 338 acres of land was $26,000.  Construction of the Northern Hospital for the Insane (now WMHI) began in 1871.  The first patient was admitted on April 21, 1873.  The original building was completed on November 11, 1875, with the capacity of 500 beds.