Entertainment in Days Gone By

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Long ago, before there were cinema multiplexes and streaming video services, people enjoyed live entertainment at theatres and auditoriums, often luxuriously appointed venues. Evansville had its share of these, so let’s peek at how late 19th century folks entertained themselves.

Evansville’s first theatre opened in 1852, on 1st Street, between Sycamore and Vine Streets.  It was called Apollo Hall, but by 1860 it was known as Mozart Hall. Mozart Hall is probably best known locally for the events of January 7, 1861, at a New Year’s ball. “During the evening, two brothers from a prominent family — Robert M. Evans and John Paul Evans, grandsons of the late Colonel Robert Evans for whom the growing city was named — entered into a raucous argument over unknown issues, but witnesses admitted both were in a serious state of drunkenness.  As the disagreement heated, both men threw punches and then drew guns. The other party guests hid behind pillars and doorways. Like a scene from a Western movie, the brothers fired 15 shots.  John Paul was shot in the head and died instantly, but not before he had lodged two bullets in Robert’s chest and stomach. The shots killed him 20 minutes after impact.  A stray shot slew 6-year-old Solomon Gumberts, the son of a prominent family. Someone ran to the Evans home to alert a soon-to-be-broken-hearted mother, Saleta Evans, who rushed to the scene.”

In 1868, the Golden Troupe (a company of actors of whom the nucleus was the six members of the Golden family) purchased Mozart Hall, remodeled it, and renamed it Metropolitan. If you’re local and/or familiar with New Harmony, you may recognize that name as associated with Thrall’s Opera House, a venue they purchased some 20 years later. The youngest Golden, Frances, is said to have made her theatrical debut when her mother carried her on stage in her arms. Frances, also known as Fannie, entertained World War I troops with the YMCA.

Here’s a photograph of Fannie (on the right) and her friend, Eloise Mumford, sitting on the banks of the Wabash River in New Harmony. The date of this photograph is unknown, but since Fannie was born in 1877 and looks to be a teenager/young woman here, this is probably in the 1890's. Source: Don Blair collection, MSS 247-4113.

Here’s a photograph of Fannie (on the right) and her friend, Eloise Mumford, sitting on the banks of the Wabash River in New Harmony. The date of this photograph is unknown, but since Fannie was born in 1877 and looks to be a teenager/young woman here, this is probably in the 1890’s. Source: Don Blair collection, MSS 247-4113.

Mozart Hall/the Metropolitan was destroyed by fire in 1882.

Back to that grieving mother, Saleta Evans–given the influence of alcohol on her sons’ deaths, she devoted her life to temperance. In 1878/1879 she built Evans Hall and gave it to the city. Located on the corner of 5th Street and Locust Street, it was dedicated to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Evans Hall in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1908. Source: Regional Postcards collection, RH 033-199.

Evans Hall in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1908. Source: Regional Postcards collection, RH 033-199.

From the time it was built until the construction of the Coliseum (1917), this was the largest venue in the city. It seated 800 on the ground floor and 250 more in the balcony. Lectures, concerts, plays, dances, political rallies, and even roller skating was held here. President Theodore Roosevelt was but one of the famous people who appeared in Evans Hall. It gradually deteriorated until it was unsafe, and in 1930, this structure was razed to build what was then Central Library, now the Children’s Museum of Evansville (CMoE).

mss 026-055

1982 aerial view of Central Library at 22 SE 5th Street. The library paid for the cost of the razing of Evans Hall in return for the use of the land, which was leased to the library for 99 years at the princely sum of $1.00) and this library building opened in 1932. Source: Joan Marchand collection, MSS 026-055.

The first “real” theatre was the Opera House at 1st and Locust Streets. It opened September 1868 and was gutted by fire in 1891. It was rebuilt and renamed The People’s, later called the Orpheum. It was again destroyed by fire in 1917.

the orpheum

In this 1910 photograph, this theatre was called The Orpheum. Photograph from Willard Library. Source: https://bit.ly/2CiItMw

Ticket to the Orpheum, n.d. Source: Ken McCutchan, MSS 004-10-11.

Ticket to the Orpheum, n.d. Source: Ken McCutchan, MSS 004-10-11.

Courtesy of Willard Library. Source: https://bit.ly/2CiItMw

Courtesy of Willard Library. Source: https://bit.ly/2CiItMw

The Little Bijou was a vaudevillian theatre that opened in 1906 at 5th and Locust Streets. Two years later it was renamed Majestic. This was not a new construction, having taken over the old Igleheart Mills which was built in 1856, shown below. It had seen better days and was sometimes called “The Louse” because of all the bedbugs!! It was razed in 1909 and a new theatre built at this location and named the New Majestic. It was gutted by fire in the 1920’s and restored, was bought by the Loew’s chain circa 1965, closed in 1973 and was razed in 1974.

Ticket to the New Majestic Theatre, n.d. Source: Ken McCutchan, MSS 004-10-11.

Ticket to the New Majestic Theatre, n.d. Source: Ken McCutchan, MSS 004-10-11.

The Opera House may have been the first “real” theatre, but in October 1889 the crème de la crème opened—the Grand Opera House. Built by the Business Men’s Association, this was one of the first public buildings with electric lights.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“For more than 70 years, the Grand Theater (known historically as the Grand Opera House) stood proudly on Sycamore Street near Third Street. When it opened in the fall of 1889, the 1,700-seat theater rivaled the most lavish in larger cities, with its domed ceiling, gigantic chandelier, three tiers of boxes and two balconies. Early opera performances later gave way to vaudeville acts. In 1929, the first talking movie was introduced and by the 1930, the Grand was regularly featuring motion pictures. Through the years, the theater also was the venue for a variety of community events. It closed its doors in 1962 and was soon razed.” Quotation from historicevansville.com

mss 004-10-11 (majestic program)

Front cover of program at the Grand Opera House, 1889. Source: Ken McCutchan, MSS 004-10-11.

The Cadick Theatre was to have been built at the corner of 3rd and Sycamore Streets, but the Great Depression struck, and construction never made it past the first floor. In 1937, the Greyhound Bus Station (now the BruBurger Bar) was built atop the theatre’s foundation.

Today’s concert, theatre, and movie venues are wonderful, but almost none of them are so storied or so elegant as these, where being in the building itself was part of the entertainment package. In a later blog, we’ll look at a local theatre from “back in the day” that is still in use, and at one that is in the process of revitalization.

Resources Consulted:

Coures, Kelley.  ‘Drunk Dying.”  Evansville Living, September/October 2011.


Willard Library’s online Photography Gallery

MSS 004—Kenneth McCutchan Collection

Posted in Art, Evansville, Indiana, Local history, Theatre | Leave a comment

The House that “Jack” Built

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Fallingwater Home, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/2R5t78n

Fallingwater Home, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/2R5t78n

Gateway Arch, n.d. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Louis_night_expblend_cropped.jpg

Gateway Arch, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/2CMFePf

Sydney Opera House, n.d. Source: https://sco.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sydney_Opera_House_at_Sunset.jpg

Sydney Opera House, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/2SwYipR

Eiffel Tower, n.d. Source: https://pixabay.com/en/eiffel-tower-paris-france-travel-3349075/

Eiffel Tower, n.d. Source: https://bit.ly/2FngRp1

Some images are just evocative, aren’t they? You immediately recognize them.  You probably recognize most, if not all of these, even if you don’t know who designed and built them.  For the record, the images goes as followed: Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania; the Gateway Arch in St. Louis designed by Eero Saarinen in 1947 and built 1963-1965; the Sydney Opera House, located in the harbor in Sydney, Australia, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1973. Finally, everyone knows the Eiffel Tower in Paris, designed and built by Gustav Eiffel, 1887-1889.

MSS 089-006

Source: Clifford Shopbell collection, MSS 089-006.

Evansville had its own well-known architect around the turn of the 20th century. Clifford Shopbell never became as famous as these architects (although his name would have been easily recognized here), but he designed and built many local landmarks. Shopbell was born December 8, 1871 in Princeton, Indiana.  His father, George W., was a contractor and builder, so from an early age he was exposed to architecture. After high school graduation, he worked in Indianapolis for 5 years before returning to Evansville to work with a local architect named C.J. Brehmer for several years.  In 1897 he partnered with William J. Harris to open Harris & Shopbell.  This partnership lasted until Harris’ death in 1910, when the firm became Clifford Shopbell & Company Still later it morphed into Shopbell, Fowler & Thole.

One of Shopbell’s most recognizable buildings is the Coliseum.

RH 033-175

Postcard of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Coliseum, n.d. Source: Evansville Postcards collection, RH 033-175.

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum is located at 300 Court Street. “The Coliseum, a 66,000 square foot neoclassical facility at the axis of Fourth and Court streets, was erected in 1917 as a tribute to Vanderburgh County’s veterans of both the American Civil and Spanish-American wars.  … This venue can still seat 2,400 visitors (more than 4,000 if they’re standing).” In 1922, the funeral for Evansville Mayor Benjamin Bosse was held at this venue.


Funeral of Benjamin Bosse at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Coliseum, 1922. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 264-2984.

Bosse (1874-1922) was a very popular Democratic mayor of Evansville from 1914 until he died in office. He lived in a house (still standing) at 813 SE 1st Street, built for him by Shopbell in 1916. Here’s that house, circa 1940.

Former residence of Benjamin Bosse, 1940. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 264-0970.

Former residence of Benjamin Bosse, 1940. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 264-0970.

Shopbell also built the home of another mayor, John W. Boehne, at 1119 Lincoln Avenue.  Built in 1912/1913, this house still stands and has housed, in the past, various businesses as well as TKE fraternity for the University of Evansville.

5. Boehne House

Former residence of John W. Boehne, n.d. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_W._Boehne_House.jpg

Reitz Memorial Catholic High School, at 1500 Lincoln Avenue, was designed by Edward Thole, a member of Shopbell, Fowler & Thole, in 1923.

Reitz Memorial High School postcard, n.d. Source: Evansville Postcards collection, RH 033-548.

Reitz Memorial High School postcard, n.d. Source: Evansville Postcards collection, RH 033-548.

The Shopbell firms built many Carnegie libraries throughout Indiana and in Illinois and Kentucky. Brief background: Scottish industrialist donated $60 million to build 1,689 public libraries in the U.S., roughly between 1883-1929. Commissions to build these were highly sought after, and Shopbell was successful in building both East and West branches in Evansville, 1911-1913.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are many more buildings designed and built by the various Shopbell firms over the years—too many to list/picture here.  For more information, take a look at this YouTube video created by Reitz High School history students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uFks2ApUuA

Resources Consulted:

Architects Who Left Their Mark on Indiana (Indiana Landmarks)

Clifford Shopbell’s Legacy in Evansville Indiana (FeeltheHistory YouTube video)

Historic Evansville database

How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune Into A Library Legacy. NPR, Morning Edition: August 1, 2013.

Memoirs of the lower Ohio valley: personal and genealogical, Volume 1. Federal Publishing Company, 1905.

Reflections upon a century of architecture, Evansville, Indiana.  Evansville, Ind.: The Junior League of Evansville, c1977.   Regional Collection, University Archives & Special Collections    Call Number: NA735.E9 R4

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum (Celebrate Evansville website)

Posted in Architecture, Engineering, Evansville, Indiana, Indiana history, Local history | Leave a comment

Don’t Mess with Mother Nature, Part 1: The Blizzard of 1978

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Today we’d call it a snowpocalypse, or maybe snowmageddon. Those terms weren’t yet coined when the blizzard of 1978 hit, but they would have been appropriate. First, let’s define the term “blizzard” and then we’ll look at particulars.

“Perhaps the best way to describe a “blizzard” is to say that it is a snowstorm gone wild.  [To be considered a blizzard, certain criteria must be met]:  “Winds of at least 35 mph (frequent gusts are generally considered to qualify) and visibility reduced by falling and/or blowing snow to less than ¼ mile.  The strict application is for the wind and visibility criteria to be met for at least three consecutive hours.”” (American Meteorological Society’s Glossary of Meteorology as quoted in Mogil, p. 55)

The January 25-27 storm that ravaged the Midwest met this definition in spades. “The storm set records still in place to this day, including the most snow in one month at Indianapolis, 30.6 inches, and the most snow on the ground at Indianapolis, 20 inches. …  Winds would approach 50 mph or more by midnight and continue through the 27th. Temperatures would plummet to a low of zero during the storm, with wind chills approaching -50 on the old wind chill scale. Snowfall rates of nearly one half to as much as one inch per hour were not in and of themselves remarkable, but the duration of the heavy snow was. Significant snowfall lasted about 31 hours at Indianapolis and would be followed by continued cold and high winds. This hampered recovery and relief efforts, leaving much of Indiana crippled for days. In all 15.5 inches of snow would fall at Indianapolis, which combined with the snow already on the ground, would bury the city under 20 inches of snow. In other areas, up to 3 feet of snow fell. The howling winds would push drifts up to as much as 20-25 feet. Visibilities would remain at or below one quarter mile for 25 hours.” Conditions in Ohio were even worse, with 100 mph winds creating enormous drifts of snow.

People were trapped at home/work/in their cars. Then governor Otis Bowen authorized the Indiana National Guard to rescue motorists; the Guard used tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy equipment.

By the afternoon of the 26th, all roads were closed. Several National Weather Service employees in Indianapolis were trapped in the office for 74 hours. Visibility at the Indianapolis airport was at one time as low as 1/8 of a mile. “If you wanted to make a phone call, you were out of luck! Indiana Bell halted all phone traffic except emergency calls.” (pre-cell phone days) Purdue University cancelled classes for only the 3rd time since 1950, and the University of Notre Dame did the same for the first time in its history. In Franklin, IN, the newspaper was printed on pink paper so subscribers could find it (nothing was said about the poor delivery people)!

How would you like to dig your house out of a massive drift like this one in New Whiteland, Indiana?

Little boy digging out snow from the front of his house, 1978. Source: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/history/retroindy/2016/01/25/retroindy-blizzard-1978/79293570/

Little boy digging out snow from the front of his house, 1978. Source: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/history/retroindy/2016/01/25/retroindy-blizzard-1978/79293570/

In Evansville, officers from the sheriff’s department picked up blood supplies from Ohio Valley Blood Services Inc. (then at 123 SE 2nd Street) …

mss 034-2008

Sheriff’s department officer delivering blood from the Ohio Valley Blood Service, Inc. during the blizzard of 1978 in Evansville, Indiana. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2008.

… and delivered it to a train for further transport.

Sheriff's department officer delivering blood during the blizzard of 1978 in Evansville, Indiana. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2029.

Sheriff’s department officer delivering blood during the blizzard of 1978 in Evansville, Indiana. Source: Gregory Smith collection, MSS 034-2029.

“Bev (Weyer) Schulthise, who has spent more than four decades at the Ferdinand Town Office, was a town utility clerk living with her parents in Ferdinand and taking night classes at the University of Southern Indiana [then ISUE] at the time of the blizzard.  In those days, she says, people did not stay glued to the TV watching radar. She took off for school in Evansville that Wednesday only to arrive to find classes canceled.  “Nobody knew exactly what was going on with the weather back then, I don’t think,” Bev says. “You didn’t have the kind of communication you have now.” … Bev’s boyfriend and future husband, the late Gary Schulthise, was working as a commercial artist in Evansville. She made it to his apartment and was stranded there for a couple of days until roads reopened.”

When it was all over, more than 70 people lost their lives in the storm, including 11 in Indiana, 5 in Kentucky, and 51 in Ohio.  Here’s hoping the winter of 2019 will NOT repeat that of 1978!

Resources Consulted:

Evans, Chad.  “Remembering the Blizzard of ’78.”  Channel 44 weather blog, January 26, 2016.

Fowler, Ashley. “9 Frosty Facts About the Blizzard of 1978.”  WIBC BLOG, January 26, 2017.

Mitchell, Dawn. “RetroIndy: Blizzard of 1978.”  Indianapolis Star online, January 25, 2016.

Mogil, H. Michael.  Extreme Weather: Understanding the Science of Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Heat Waves, Snow Storms, Global Warming and Other Atmospheric Disturbances.  New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2007.  (General Collection QC981 .M645 2007)

MSS 034 The Gregory T. Smith Collection (digital collection available here)

Powell, Bill. “Blizzard of ’78 memories vivid 40 years later.” Dubois County Herald, January 25, 2018.

National Weather Service: Blizzard of 1978 (Indiana)


Posted in American history, Evansville, Indiana, Indiana history, weather | Leave a comment

It’s Bedlam Here!!

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Everyone knows what this means—that all is chaos.  But do you know where the word came from?

In 1247, monks began to care for the sick and indigent in London at a place called St. Mary of Bethlehem.  It was a small place, “centred around a courtyard with a chapel in the middle, it had approximately 12 ‘cells’ for patients, a kitchen, staff accommodation and an exercise yard.”  In 1346 the hospital was taken over by the city of London.  At some time the focus changed from caring for the physically sick to caring for those with mental illness.  “Its subsequent specialisation in ‘madness’ gave it a future, although we know that its patients also included people with learning disabilities, ‘falling sickness’ (epilepsy) and dementia.  By 1403, ‘lunatic’ patients formed the majority of the Bethlem’s clients – and so England’s first, and perhaps most infamous, mental institution was born.”

The mentally ill have long suffered from both ignorance and stigma. “In the ancient world cultures, a well-known belief was that mental illness was “the result of supernatural phenomena”; this included phenomena from “demonic possession” to “sorcery” and “the evil eye”. The most commonly believed cause, demonic possession, was treated by chipping a hole, or “trephine”, into the skull of the patient by which “the evil spirits would be released,” therefore healing the patient.”  Hippocrates developed theories about the medical original of mental illness, but the superstitious ideal still held sway with most people.  “Historically, those with mental illnesses had a “social stigma” attached to them. It was believed that “a mentally ill member implies a hereditary, disabling condition in the bloodline” threatening the family’s “identity as an honorable unit”. In countries, or cultures, that had strong ties to family honor, such as China, the ill were hidden by their families so that the community or society that they were a part of wouldn’t believe the illness was “a result of immoral behavior by the individual and/or their relatives”.  As a result of this social stigma, many of the mentally ill were forced to either “live a life of confinement” or were abandoned and forced to live on the streets. Any of those that were abandoned to live on the streets and were rumored “dangerous and unmanageable” were either put in jail or dungeons, out of the public eye (Foerschner, 1).

Often, patients at St. Mary of Bethlehem were poor and/or abandoned by family members.  This, in addition to ignorance and superstition, led to horrific treatment.  One common practice was rotational therapy (developed by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles), whereby the patient sat in a chair suspended from the ceiling, which was then spun violently, as many as 100 revolutions/minute.  The subsequent nausea, vomiting, and incontinence were considered as signs of progress in the patient’s treatment.  “Bedlam was run by physicians in the Monro family for over 100 years, during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time, patients were dunked in cold baths, starved, and beaten. William Black’s 1811 “Dissertation on Insanity” described the asylum thusly: “In Bedlam the strait waistcoat when necessary, and occasional purgatives are the principal remdies. Nature, time, regimen, confinement, and seclusion from relations are the principal auxiliaries.” He went on to describe the use of venesection (an archaic term for bloodletting), leeches, cupping glasses, and the administration of blisters.   Bedlam was so horrific that it would routinely refuse admission to patients deemed too frail to handle the course of their therapies.”

This is James Norris, “who was clad in a harness with chains running into the wall and into an adjoining room. When the staff saw fit, they would yank on the chains, slamming the unfortunate Norris into the wall.”  This treatment went on for years.

Remember that the hospital’s name was Bethlehem, which was corrupted in pronunciation as Bethlem.  It’s not much of a stretch from “Bethlem” to “Bedlam.”  It’s easy to see how the word “bedlam” came to mean chaos, uproar, disorder, pandemonium, and confusion.

When it was rebuilt in 1676, Bethlem looked more like Versailles than a mental hospital (Credit: Wellcome Library, London)

When it was rebuilt in 1676, Bethlem looked more like Versailles than a mental hospital (Credit: Wellcome Library, London).

“Designed by Robert Hooke, a City Surveyor, natural philosopher and assistant to Christopher Wren, its 540ft-long (165m) façade – complete with Corinthian columns and cupola-topped turret – was inspired by Louis XIV’s Tuileries Palace in Paris. It looked over formal gardens with tree-lined promenades. The overall impression was of the French king’s opulent estate at Versailles, not of an asylum.” The beautiful new palatial building was downright sinister, putting a beautiful face on the horrors occurring within.  At about this time, the ultimate indignity and humiliation for the unfortunate inmates began–Bedlam became a tourist attraction. For a fee, the wealthy were invited to tour the “zoo” and marvel at the spectacle.

Bedlam may have been the most infamous of mental hospitals, but it was certainly not the only one, and care at the others was likely no better. Fortunately, there were individuals whose study of mental illness and proposed therapies were more progressive. University Archives Special Collections has a small collection (MSS 085) of brief portfolios, created by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Laboratories, of information about medical practitioners who advocated for better treatment modalities.  These portfolios (at least some if not all) were sent to a local physician, Dr. Lillian G. Moulton, in 1965. Lilliam Gertrude Moulton Manual (1898-1992) worked for the Indiana Division of Mental Health from 1938 until 1949 and established a traveling child guidance clinic for those without easy access to this service. She had a private practice in Indianapolis, worked with Riley Hospital for Children, and taught at the Indiana University School of Medicine. From 1956-1975 she was director of the Vanderburgh County Child Guidance Center. (Findagrave.com)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One portfolio provides information on Johann Weyer (1515-1588), called the Father of Medicolegal Psychiatry. Weyer was a Dutch physician, educated at the University of Paris.  He lived in a time when the fear of witchcraft was rife, and witch hunts, trials, and burning at the stake were prevalent. In 1563, he wrote a pioneering work entitled De praestigiis daemonum, et incantationibus ac veneficiis, which translates to On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons, in which he postulated that those accused of witchcraft were mentally ill.

Another portfolio tells the story of Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809-1883), an American who earned a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832.  Shortly after he began his own practice, he was offered and accepted the position of superintendent at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. “His ambition, intellect, and strong sense of purpose enabled him to use that position to become one of the most prominent authorities on mental health care in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Kirkbride was a founding member of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII) —forerunner of the American Psychiatric Association—serving first as secretary, then later as president from 1862 to 1870. Kirkbride pioneered what would be known as the Kirkbride Plan, to improve medical care for the insane, as a standardization for buildings that housed the patients.”  Kirkbride’s Plan advocated for humane treatment in a comfortable, well-ventilated, well-lit, facility, with not more than 250 patients. The hospital—he preferred that term to insane asylum—should be built in the country, with lots of garden/outdoor space. No attendant should be responsible for more than 10 patients.  In the section of his plan entitled “Propositions Relative to the Organization of Hospitals for the Insane,” Article XIV states, “All persons employed in the care of the insane should be active, vigilant, cheerful, and in good health.  They should be of a kind and benevolent disposition; be educated, and in all respects trustworthy; and their compensation should be sufficiently liberal to secure the services of individuals of this description.” (MSS 018-1-2)

Adolf Meyer (1866-1950). Source: Roche Laboratories, MSS 085-1-5.

Adolf Meyer (1866-1950). Source: Roche Laboratories, MSS 085-1-5.

Adolf Meyer (1866-1950) is called the “Dean of American Psychiatry. Earning his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1892, this Swiss-born American was a neuropathologist for the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane from 1893-1895 and advocated for taking accurate case histories of patients; he began to believe that “the disorder in mental illness results essentially from personality dysfunction rather than brain pathology. He was chief pathologist of the mental institution at Worcester, Massachusetts (1895–1902), and then became director of pathology for the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospital Service, Ward’s Island (1902–10), and professor of psychiatry at the Cornell University Medical College, New York City (1904–09). As he became more aware of the importance of social environment in the development of mental disorders, his wife (née Mary Potter Brooks) began visiting patients’ families. Her interviews are considered the first effort in psychiatric social work.  In 1910 Meyer became professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) and later director of its Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic (1914). Until he retired in 1941, he impressed generations of students with the idea that, in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, account must be taken of the patient as a whole person.”

Daniel McNaughton (1813-1865). Source: Unknown.

Daniel McNaughton (1813-1865). Source: Unknown.

Daniel McNaughton (1813-1865) was a Scottish man who influenced the field not through his accomplishments, but rather through his mental illness. Under the delusion that there was a conspiracy against him, he decided to kill Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel.  On January 20, 1843, he spotted Edmund Drummond, Peel’s private secretary, coming out of Peel’s residence and mistook him for the prime minister. He followed Drummond and shot him in the back; Drummond died several days later. There were many witnesses, and his trial and subsequent acquittal on the grounds of insanity was Victorian England’s equivalent of our “media circus.”  Public outrage forced the House of Lords to investigate and publish the first set of rules for determining criminal insanity.

“The following are the main points of [what became known as] McNaughton’s rules:

Every man is to be presumed to be sane and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved.

An insane person is punishable “if he knows” at the time of crime.

To establish a defense on insanity, the accused, by defect of reason or disease of mind, is not in a position to know the nature and consequences.

The insane person must be considered in the same situation as to responsibility as if the facts with respect to which the delusion exists were real.

It was the jury’s role to decide whether the defendant was insane.”

From being furiously twirled about, to chains and straitjackets, to the asylum as a tourist attraction, to Kirkbride’s humane treatment and conditions, to today’s medical practice of psychiatry—while the mentally ill are not always treated appropriately even today, we’ve come a long way from Bedlam!

Resources Consulted:

Asokan, T.V.  “Daniel McNaughton (1813-1865).” Indian Journal of Psychiatry: v. 49, no. 3 (July-September 2007),p. 223-224.

A Beautiful Mind: The History of the Treatment of Mental Illness.  (History Cooperative)

Casale, Steven. “Bedlam: The Horrors of London’s Most Notorious Insane Asylum.”  Huffpost, March 18, 2016/updated December 6, 2017.

Encyclopedia Brittanica online.  “Adolf Meyer.”  September 9, 2018.

From Bethlehem to Bedlam – England’s First Mental Institution.

Malcolm, Lynne and Clare Blumer.  “Madness and insanity: A history of mental illness from evil spirits to modern medicine.”  Australian Broadcasting Corporation News online, August 2, 2016.

Ruggeri, Amanda.  “How Bedlam Became ‘a Palace for Lunatics.’”  BBC culture, December 15, 2016.

Virginia Commonwealth University Social Welfare History Project.  “Thomas Story Kirkbride 1809-1883 — Physician, Psychiatrist and Developer of the Kirkbride Plan.”

Posted in European History, history, Psychology | Leave a comment

The Nuremberg Trials

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Holocaust. The very word conjures up unimaginable horrors. “The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.”

To control this threat, the Germans herded Jews into ghettos—enclosed districts that were isolated from the general populace as well as from other Jewish communities.  Once isolated, it became easier to implement the “final solution” of eradicating anyone considered inferior.  Between mass shootings and gas chambers at concentration camps like Dachau, Auschwitz, Treblinka, and others, the final death toll was staggering.

With Allied victories in Europe and Japan in 1945, thoughts turned (although the issue had been discussed earlier in the war) to consideration of how to seek justice for Nazi atrocities. “In December 1942, the Allied leaders of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union “issued the first joint declaration officially noting the mass murder of European Jewry and resolving to prosecute those responsible for violence against civilian populations,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), the Soviet leader, initially proposed the execution of 50,000 to 100,000 German staff officers. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) discussed the possibility of summary execution (execution without a trial) of high-ranking Nazis, but was persuaded by American leaders that a criminal trial would be more effective. Among other advantages, criminal proceedings would require documentation of the crimes charged against the defendants and prevent later accusations that the defendants had been condemned without evidence.”

Much of Nuremberg was in ruins after the war, n.d. Source: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/nuremberg-germany-in-ruins-1945-david-lee-guss.html

Much of Nuremberg was in ruins after the war, n.d. Source: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/nuremberg-germany-in-ruins-1945-david-lee-guss.html

Setting up the trials was beset with difficulties.  There was no precedent for international justice on this scope–war crimes trials in the past had been held by single nations.  Now four sovereign nations (France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the U.S.) were going to have to agree on a single set of laws and procedures while coming from different legal frameworks, traditions, and ideals.  The Allies wanted the trials held in Germany but selecting a location in a defeated and destroyed country was no easy feat.  The city of Nuremberg was chosen for several reasons—its Palace of Justice was still standing (see below), large enough to host the attendant crowd, and had a large prison area.  There were also important symbolic reasons to choose Nuremberg.  Nuremberg was the site of many of Hitler’s populist rallies and well as where the laws that stripped Jews of everything had been enacted.  It was thus fitting that Nuremberg should be the site where Hitler’s Third Reich came to an end.

Nuremberg Trial

Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, n.d. Source: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/nurnbergtrial.html

Defendants at Nuremberg

Defendants Hermann Göring, Karl Dönitz, and Rudolf Hess confer, while examining a document, in the dock at the courtroom at the Nuremberg Trials. Two military policemen stand behind them, n.d. Source: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Defendants_G%C3%B6ring,_D%C3%B6nitz,_and_Hess_conferring_Nuremberg_Trials.jpeg

There were two sets of Nuremberg trials, although the first, which indicted 21 major war criminals, was best known. Each Allied nation supplied two judges, a main and an alternate. The main American prosecutor was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. Indictments were based on “three categories of crimes: crimes against peace (including planning, preparing, starting or waging wars of aggression or wars in violation of international agreements), war crimes (including violations of customs or laws of war, including improper treatment of civilians and prisoners of war) and crimes against humanity (including murder, enslavement or deportation of civilians or persecution on political, religious or racial grounds).”  Hitler and his top henchmen Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler were not available to be placed on trial, having already committed suicide.  Among the 21 indicted were Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, and Martin Bormann (tried in absentia).  “As the accused men and judges spoke four different languages, the trial saw the introduction of a technological innovation taken for granted today: instantaneous translation. IBM provided the technology and recruited men and women from international telephone exchanges to provide on-the-spot translations through headphones in English, French, German and Russian.  In the end, the international tribunal found all but three of the defendants guilty.  Twelve were sentenced to death, one in absentia, and the rest were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life behind bars. Ten of the condemned were executed by hanging on October 16, 1946. Hermann Göring (1893-1946), Hitler’s designated successor and head of the “Luftwaffe” (German air force), committed suicide the night before his execution with a cyanide capsule he had hidden in a jar of skin medication.”

After the main trial, 12 more were held from 1946-1949.  Because of differences between the Allies a joint trial was no longer possible, so the later trials were U.S. military tribunals.  One of these was the doctors’ trial for those accused of crimes against humanity, including the medical experiments conducted on prisoners of war.  Other trials dealt with industrialists, SS officers, and high-ranking army officers.  The judges (or jurists) trial charged 16 lawyers and judges with implementing eugenics laws to preserve racial purity.

This latter trial involves some local interest.  Deputy chief of counsel was Charles LaFollette.  Charles Marion LaFollette (1898-1974) “moved with his parents to Evansville, Ind., in 1901; attended the public schools and entered Wabash College at Crawfordsville, Ind., in September 1916; during the First World War enlisted in the United States Army and served with the One Hundred and Fifty-first Infantry, Thirty-eighth Division, 1917-1919, with four months overseas; attended Wabash College until June 1921; studied law at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., in 1921 and also in law offices in Dayton, Ohio, and Evansville, Ind.; was admitted to the bar in 1925 and commenced practice in Evansville, Ind.; member of the State house of representatives 1927-1929; elected as a Republican to the Seventy-eighth and to the Seventy-ninth Congresses (January 3, 1943-January 3, 1947); was not a candidate for reelection in 1946 but was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for United States Senator; deputy chief of counsel for war crimes, Nuremberg, Germany, from January 4, 1947, to December 15, 1947; director of the Office of Military Government for Wurttemberg-Baden, Germany, from December 15, 1947, to January 16, 1949; appointed a director of Americans for Democratic Action on July 1, 1949, serving until May 1, 1950; member of first Subversive Activities Contol Board, 1950-1951; died in Trenton, N.J., June 27, 1974; cremated; ashes interred at Locust Hill Cemetery.”

LaFollette’s prosecution led to 10 convictions, with imprisonment for life in four of these.  Transcripts for the case, as well as his closing argument for the prosecution, made October 13, 1947, is available here through Digital Commons at Georgia Law, a  project of the School of Law at the University of Georgia.  Special Collections/University Archives has a collection of LaFollette’s speeches, correspondence, photographs, etc.  Within that collection is a copy of a speech he delivered on June 3, 1948 entitled “The Case Against Nazi Jurists.”  Made in his capacity as director of the Office of Military Government for Wurttemberg-Baden, it was presented to the interzonal conference of lawyers and justice officials in Munich.  There had been criticism of the Nuremberg trials on several grounds by many, even by U.S. Supreme Court justices.  In his speech, LaFollette passionately and at great length (44 single-spaced, typewritten pages) defended the trials.  On the accusation that like crimes were committed in other places by other individuals who were not charged, he wrote, “Such an argument chooses to ignore the sound rule that two wrongs do not make a right. … Would a court of Bavaria permit a murder to defend on the ground that a man had committed a murder in Thuringia and not been brought to trial?…Again, would any Protestant bishop anywhere in Germany refuse to discipline a pastor of his church who had stolen from his parishioners, merely because the pastor alleged as a defense that the bishops of [other church denominations] did not discipline their priests or ministers for the same act?” (p. 7) He concluded by cautioning, “these defendants have injured you, the German people, by their crimes.  They are not your martyred heroes, they are your betrayers.” (p. 43)

U.S. Deputy Chief of Counsel Charles M. LaFollette at the podium during the Justice Case. Behind him is the prosecution team., n.d. Source: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1058535

U.S. Deputy Chief of Counsel Charles M. LaFollette at the podium during the Justice Case. Behind him is the prosecution team., n.d. Source: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1058535

Troubled and contentious as they were, the Nuremberg Trials are nevertheless credited with progress towards establishing international laws, such as those of the Geneva Convention.  And a local man had a part in it!

Resources Consulted:

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1994-Present.

“Introduction to the Holocaust.”  The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

MSS 005 Charles LaFollette Collection (Special Collections/University Archives)

“The Nuremberg Trials.”  The Holocaust Encyclopedia. Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Nuremberg trials.  History Channel online, 2010, updated 2018.

Nuremberg Trials Project.  Harvard Law School Library, 2016.

Trial 3—The Judges Case. (Nuremberg trials).  Digital Commons @ Georgia Law, a project of the School of Law at the University of Georgia.

Posted in European History, Holocaust, World War 2 | Leave a comment