Hospitals, Treatment of Insane, and Emergency Critical Care

This week we focused on hospital conditions, insane prisoners, and emergency critical care in the 1880s and how these relate to Ada Brown’s case individually.

Hospitals and Treatment of Insane

For this week we researched the conditions of the insane in the prisons and hospitals, and found that their treatment was not great according to articles from the Hartford Courant right around the 1880s through about the 1890s. In the hospital report from 1880 it discussed the number of patients that the hospital received in a year. When they wrote the article there were 95 current patients. They admitted 692 patients throughout the year alone: 162 males and 230 females. Of the 326 that recovered, 66 people died, 30 left, 20 births occurred, 93 were removed for increased improvement (38 not improved), 103 still remained under treatment. 59 of these patients were supported by charity. The staff supported close to 7756 patients a week. The training of nurses has gotten better due to the fact more and more private families are requesting nurses. 42 connecticut soldiers were treated, 311 Americans were treated, 286 foreigners, and people from 49 different towns came to this specific hospital. (Hartford Courant) This gives a good insight to what a hospital dealt with in a year and how busy it must have been. This could be revealing about what treatment was like if it was crowded (possibly not very good), and this could have affected how Ada Brown’s death was handled and the efforts they put into reviving her, which were lacking to say the least.

We also looked into the treatment of insane prisoners which might relate to the case if Harrison was indeed insane. The conditions of the prison itself were horrific, it was filthy with maggots in the bed and gross cell conditions and beatings of the prisoners with cane (Hartford Courant). In terms of the insane prisoners specifically the law was supposed to have a prisoner examined by three experts before being labeled insane, if they deemed the prisoner insane the warden was to ship the prisoner off to the Connecticut Hospital for the insane in Middletown (Hartford Courant). The article also went on to say that this law for insane criminals was often not followed and many were left stuck in the prisons and not getting the proper care that they needed (Hartford Courant). This may be an indicator of what Harrisons fate would have been in the prison system, showing that he probably never recovered from his mental illness if he truly had one.

Emergency Critical Care

This week we also decided to look further into the details of Ada Brown’s murder by doing some research on emergency critical care in the 1880s and relating the information specifically to the case. In 1880s Hartford, horse-drawn ambulances would have been the source of emergency transportation to a hospital or some sort of medical care. It is plausible to think that Harrison would have been transported to the hospital in a horse-drawn ambulance. I attempted to locate other, more specific information on medical first-responders in 1884, but I unfortunately came up quite short. Therefore, I have decided to focus on the information presented in the dossier and using that to compare Ada’s medical care with Harrison’s, and what that might say about the case.

According to the dossier, Ada had been bleeding from a wound in her neck and was unconscious when the doctor arrived on the scene of the crime. He had checked her wound and deemed her past any attempts to save. However, when the doctor found Harrison with a similar wound, he made the decision to try and save him.

I at first speculated if the fact that Ada was a woman had anything to do with the fact that Harrison seemed to be considered a more important patient than her. I do not know if the doctor would have known of her status as a “fallen” woman, but if he did, I wondered if such knowledge could have possibly affected how much effort he was willing to put into saving her versus Harrison. I did not find any information to support or negate this, however, so I did not go further with this speculation.

 Another, more plausible speculation was the fact that the doctor must have been able to determine that Harrison had a greater chance at survival over Ada. In the first article of our dossier, Ada is described as being “in the throes of death.” The assumption would be that her body was going through the final stages of agony before death, but what that phrase means specifically is rather unclear.

However, Harrison was completely unconscious when the doctor arrived. That certainly seems to imply that Harrison was not in favorable shape either, yet the doctor still makes an attempt to save him versus Ada.

An interesting side point is that the Courant makes a note of the exact time when Ada Brown dies- 1:45 A.M. This means that someone was paying close attention to Ada when she died. The dossier article makes a point to state that there were other people who were also at the scene of the crime, (such as Courant representatives who were asking Gregory questions), so it would be plausible to assume that, since the doctor was tending Harrison, one or more of these other people in the house could have remained with Ada as she took her last breaths. However, the Dossier does not specify or elaborate on this further, so we can only assume and speculate.



Works Cited

HARTFORD HOSPITAL. (1881, Mar 21). Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887)Retrieved from

THE PRISON HEARING. (1893, May 03). The Hartford Courant (1887-1922)Retrieved from

THE PRISON HEARING. (1893, May 03). The Hartford Courant (1887-1922)Retrieved from

CRUELTY TO INSANE CRIMINALS. (1880, Mar 03). Hartford Daily Courant (1840-1887) Retrieved from

“Beyond Advanced: Then and Now.”  Hartford Hospital 2014 Annual Report. Accessed 11/13/16.

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