Haunting photographs show young ‘mentally-disabled’ patients

Haunting photographs show young ‘mentally-disabled’ patients

Haunting photographs show young ‘mentally-disabled’ patients destined to spend the rest of their lives in New York’s ‘imbecile asylums’ that were taken by the doctor charged with treating the ‘nervous’ youngsters

These are the haunting portraits of children taken at an ‘imbecile asylum’ by their doctor after they were rejected for being ‘mentally-disabled’.

The photographs show the young inmates of the Imbecile Asylum in Burlington, New Jersey who would have been resigned to the care of the institution for the rest of their lives.

Dr Joseph Parrish specialized in the treatment of ‘nervous patients’, as they were referred to at the time, and took the images during his care of the youngsters. 

Parrish, who set up the hospital in 1875, decided to photograph the children under his supervision as a way of recording his patients and understanding their ailments, it is believed.

Asylyms such as this were the first attempts in nineteenth-century society to care and treat mentally disabled or ‘nervous’ children.

Being admitted to an institution like Parish’s was typically a life sentence for children, as they did not consider it possible to recover from idiocy.

Haunting images depict the children who were taken to an ‘imbecile asylum’ because of their suspected mental disability 

It is thought that the children would have been discarded by their families for being mentally unwell 


The portraits were taken by the children’s doctor, Dr Joseph Parish, who is thought to have monitored their conditions


The photographs show the young inmates of the Imbecile Asylum in Burlington, New Jersey


These children are likely to have spent their entire lives inside the institution after being shunned


Dr Parrish specialized in the treatment of ‘nervous patients’, as they were referred to at the time

He is believed to have recorded his patients through photographs taken on or against a wooden chair


Dr Parish set up the asylum which housed ‘mentally ill children’ in 1875 


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He decided to photograph the children under his supervision as a way of recording his patients and understanding their ailments


Most of these photographs are thought to have been taken around 1886

Asylyms such as this were the first attempts in nineteenth-century society to care and treat mentally disabled or ‘nervous’ children


Being admitted to an institution like Parish’s was typically a life sentence for children


Unlike insanity, society at the time did not believe that it was possible to recover from ‘idiocy’  


The children were all pictured in period dress typical of the era


It appears that all of Dr Parish’s photographs were taken in the same room 


These harrowing nameless portraits serve as a reminder of these forgotten children

Many of the images show two children together who are assumed to be silbings


No notes accompany the portraits of these boys and girls to explain what they had been diagnosed with

These asylums consisted of children who had different ways of learning or simply seemed ‘slow’ and lacking intelligence

A young male patient poses for the camera of a doctor inside the Imbecile Asylum

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