The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital

By James Labosier, Ginny Roth, and John Rees

A new archival collection, the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital Archives, 1853–2003 is now available at the National Library of Medicine to those interested in the history of mental health institutions and mental health treatment.

About Sheppard Pratt Hospital

The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, colloquially known simply as Sheppard Pratt, was founded in 1853 by Baltimore merchant and reformer Moses Sheppard. Horrified by the inhumane treatment of mentally ill persons in American prisons, Sheppard was inspired by Dorothea Dix to apply for a charter from the State of Maryland to build a private asylum. It was to provide, in Sheppard’s words, “Courteous treatment and comfort of all patients; that no patient was to be confined below ground; all were to have privacy, sunlight and fresh air; the asylum’s purpose was to be curative, combining science and experience for the best possible result.”

The cover of a brochure featuring a photograph of the length of the building and the title The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.

Brochure, August 1945
MS C 606 box 17, folder 25

To these ends, Sheppard established his asylum on 340 acres of former farmland in Towson, Md. just outside of Baltimore. Nationally renowned architect Calvert Vaux (1824–1895) designed the buildings according to the Kirkbride Plan, an architectural format inspired by Philadelphia physician Thomas S. Kirkbride which emphasized maximum light exposure for the benefit of the patients.  Vaux, was one of the premier American architects and designers of his day. Among his other commissions were Central Park in New York, the Smithsonian and White House grounds, and the original designs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though the cornerstones for Vaux’s buildings were laid in 1862, the Sheppard Asylum did not open until 1891 due to financial constraints Sheppard imposed.

Impressed with the Sheppard Asylum trustees’ administration of the trust, Baltimore philanthropist Enoch Pratt endowed the asylum with two million dollars upon his death in 1896. This endowment enabled the completion of construction and renamed the facility The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. It also gave the hospital the necessary financial means to grow and thrive. In 1971 the hospital was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Manuscript Collection Highlights

Trustees Records covers the hospital’s first one hundred and fifty years. Seventeen volumes hold the minutes of every Trustee meeting from 1853 through 2001. Committee records, dating from 1922 through 1965, detail projects and expenditures for groundskeeping and landscaping as well as the dairy herd which was dispersed in the mid-1950s. Administrative Reports (1891–2001) in many ways augments Series I and documents nearly every minutiae related to the hospital’s administration. Annual reports (1891–1923, 1963–1983) to the board of trustees summarize hospital activities. Daily reports from the medical superintendent of the hospital (1892–1906) were directed to the trustees and, though limited, cover a period not represented in the correspondence. The same may be said about the trustees reports to the Governor of Maryland (1877–1935). Reports also summarize the last years of the hospital’s dairy herd.

Three children write or draw with pencils in a classroom like setting.

To Perpetuate, booklet illustration, 1978
MS C 606 box 16, folder 46

Land Transactions (1922–1991) consists of records, correspondence, and maps detailing property owned by the board of trustees. Ledger Books/Financial Records (1857–1965) provide a detailed itemization of the hospital’s administration. The earliest ledgers, from 1857 to the mid-1890s illustrate the trustees’ careful maintenance of Moses Sheppard’s bequest in the period before the hospital admitted patients. Separate volumes are also devoted to the administration of Enoch Pratt’s 1896 bequest to the hospital. Cash accounts (1903–1965) and cash corpus accounts (1927–1965) track the daily and often mundane transactions necessary to a functioning institution. Hospital account books (1899–1965) track expenditures and income specific to patient care. Patient account volumes (1893–1918) are self-explanatory. Itemized details include cost for toll calls, dry cleaning, newspaper subscription, staff salaries; patient rolls and admissions; income from stocks, rents, and mortgages; itemized costs for seeds, fertilizer, shoeing horses, bricks, boarding horses; daily expenses incurred by patients, such as barber and cigarettes.

Miscellaneous Records and Subject Files (1860–1995) provide an eclectic range of information about the hospital, such as acquisition records of books for the general, medical, and patient libraries and a few files devoted to individual nurses. The largest segment of this series is the historical subject files (1860–1995). It contains information on various hospital anniversaries and activities held on the grounds, reports and plans for renovation and modernization, articles about the hospital, hospital policies, and some significant early items such as bids for the contract to build the gatehouse (1860) and announcement of the hospital’s formal opening and first patient admissions (1891).

Photographs of laundry and food service operations at the hospital, volunteer and auxiliary activities are covered in newsletters dating from 1970–1998, clinical staff portraits, 1965–1981, and scenes of employee picnics, dances, speeches, conferences, and award presentations.

Nursing Department/School of Nursing (1891–1981) and School of Mental Health Studies (1972–1984) records cover the hospital’s educational programs. While the School of Mental Health is very lightly covered, the School of Nursing contains much information about school regulations and policies, some faculty meeting minutes and correspondence, and a large quantity of reports detailing curriculum guidelines from 1930 to 1945. Treatment Programs (1913–1990) records consist mostly of photographs depicting activities, meetings, fairs, and lectures devoted to mental health or occupational therapy.

Writings and Publications (1867–1992) holds both literature created by the hospital and its staff and printed material acquired by the hospital. The largest segment contains research reports generated by hospital staff, thirty-two in number dating from 1968 to 1984. Two newsletters detail current events at the hospital from 1965 to 1981. There are also two runs of patient produced newsletters and four films depicting patient activities at the hospital from 1952 to 1966.

Prints and Photographs Collection Highlights

Original architectural drawings of the Sheppard Asylum by Calvert Vaux dating from the 1860s are held in the Prints and Photographs Collection.  The 37 drawings were received by the NLM as part of a donation from the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in 2006. The Vaux drawings are ink and pencil on heavy paper, with watercolor wash. The sizes of the material range from approximately 23 ¼” L x 17 ½” H, to 51 ½” L x 30 ¼” H. The drawings are unique, show high levels of artistic and drafting craftsmanship, and are valuable for understanding the cultural history of 19th-century America. The collection of drawings can be seen on the Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) database.

A very large, sprawling, high windowed, four story building with two steeples.

Calvert Vaux’s architectural design proposal for the Sheppard Asylum, Baltimore, Md., Front Elevation, ca. 1860
National Library of Medicine #C06237

In 2011, the Prints and Photographs Collection received over 500 photographs of the main facilities and grounds of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital dating from the 1890s through 2009. Included in these photographs are patient rooms, therapy rooms, dining areas, images of patients receiving treatment, and occupational therapy activities. The dedication of new buildings, with the governor of Maryland and other political and business figures in attendance, is also documented.

The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital Archives collection consists of 25 boxes and 140 ledger books of correspondence, minutes, reports, ledgers, journals, publications, and photographs that document the administration, professional training, and treatment programs at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital from its inception in 1853 to 2003. Additionally, the Prints and Photographs Collection offers an additional 13 binders of over 500 black and white photographs from Sheppard Pratt’s institutional collection and 37 original architectural drawings created by Calvert Vaux. Access to patient records and personal information less than 100 years old is open for use only after applying for access regulated by HMD’s Access to Personal Health Information policy.

James Labosier is Associate Curator for the Archives & Modern Manuscript in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.

John Rees is Archivist and Digital Resources Manager for the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Program in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.