Where Did the Asylum's Patients Come From?

The Friends Hospital collection's Minutes and Register of the Committee of Admission, 1817-1856 provides valuable information about where the Asylum's earliest patients came from. Though many patients did live in the Philadelphia area, over time, the Asylum's reach expanded tremendously to eventually include patients from all corners of what was the United States at the time and abroad, spanning from today's South and Midwest to Canada and Europe. Whether because of a particular Meeting's experience with the asylum or by complete coincidence, the Friends’ Asylum often treated many patients who came from the same place, establishing sorts of "hubs" for the Asylum's pull. The interactive map below shows the increase in patients over time as well as the increasing popularity sending patients to the Asylum was in particular places. Drag the slider below to view patients' hometowns by a particular year. The size of each marker represents the number of patients sent from each location, while the color represents the year.

Patient Hometowns

Select Year:

Year (Earlier to Later)

As you may observe, a lot has changed since the first patients entered the asylum. For example, some patients' hometowns were recorded as places we consider to be neighborhoods of Philadelphia today, such as Germantown and Manayunk, because Philadelphia during the 1800s had not yet grown enough include those areas. Additionally, the ambiguity of some entries in the collection's Minutes and Register of the Committee of Admission and the fact that borders were still being drawn during the early days of the Asylum leave us with only a rough idea of where patients came from. With two entries stating only "Western Canada," and several entries specifying only states but not cities, it can be hard to place particular patients.