Mental Health in the 1800s

Reasons for admission

See the list above? Enlarge it, study it and thank your lucky stars you didn’t live in the late 19th Century. Because this is a sheet from the Trans-Allegheny Mental Hospital in Weston, West Virginia listing all the reasons you could be committed from 1864 to 1889. The site I Heart Chaos uncovered this list and it pretty much says if you had a vagina you’d also have a padded cell. If you had a penis, you’d be in there, too.

 

Do you ever get fever? That’s okay now days. Back then, if you had fever and were the jealous type, expect to be locked up. If you tried to fight some fire, well, that’s just crazy. Off to the wacky place for you!

 

There are 86 ways to be committed and many of them pertain to touching yourself too much. Although sometimes, you can touch yourself for up to 30 years and skate free. Confused? Don’t be, dear readers. Sillimaniacs, your Silliman will enlighten! I’ve got a comment on a goodly number of these commitment reasons and hopefully, it will ease your mind.

 

Hereditary Predisposition – Genetics, kids. They check on your parents. If they were crazy enough to have you, you’re off to the asylum.
 
Ill Treatment by Husband – Sorry ladies, if he’s treating you that way it must be your crazy self.
 
Imagery Female Trouble – Guys, if you have imaginary female friends… and they give you trouble? Manti Te’o, the football player, locked up for sure.

 

waifu

Fortunately, today we know that waifus are completely normal.

 
Hysteria – Sorry, ladies, but there’s a reason they don’t call it Misteria.
 
Immoral Life – A sheep, a lamb and a hooker walks into your room. You’re off to the crazy house!
 
Novel Reading, Hereditary Laziness – If you’re a no-count, if you’re shiftless, there’s a room for you.
 
Marriage of Son – If your daughter gets married, we can see it. But a SON? How can you let that happen?
 
Masturbation for 30 Years – Good thing there’s a cut off date. ” Your honor, my client didn’t start rubbing and tugging until he was six. I have proof he’s only 34.”

 

Medicine to Prevent Conception – Ladies, if you go to the back of the drug store, the mental health police could be watching.

 

many children

Better safe than sorry.

 
Novel Reading – Everyone knows Edgar Allen Poe was crazy… and if YOU read his books…
 
Nymphomania – Geez, how did they procreate in those days? She doesn’t want it, it’s hysteria. She wants it too much, please Judge, lock her up.
 
Over Action of the Mind – “I found him reading them novels, Judge. Then he starting telling me we’d all be driving horseless carriages. Commit him, right?”
 
Over Study of Religion – Well, it looks like they might have been on the right track.
 
Parents Were Cousins – This was West Virginia, remember.
 
Tobacco and Masturbation – I guess people in those days could smoke with their off hand. And then try to catch smoke rings on their penis.
 
Politics – if you engaged in such a crazy activity, you might be considered loony. Those of your ilk ought be locked up.

 

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin addresses attendees at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

This one actually makes some sense.

 
Religious Enthusiasm – Snake handling. Talking in tongues. Who is say they were wrong, here?
 
Fits and Desertion of Husband – We don’t know which might have came first. Did the fits cause the husband to desert? If so, off to the crazy house with her.
 
Asthma – You had to be crazy to work in the coal mines those days. How did they know you were? “Judge, I saw him breathing funny. He was sticking one of those little thingies in his mouth.”
 
Bad Company – Not sure what this means. You are Bad Company or you keep Bad Company? Either way, you’re not fit to be free and walking among the decent folks.
 
Bad Whiskey – We think they through this in to keep you away from moonshine. Probably Jim Beam and the good whiskey boys pulled a few strings.
 
Business Nerves – it was stressful to run a business in the 1800s. You never knew when one of your customers might get asthma or drink bad whiskey then get thrown in the daffy house.

 

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1GZCO

Sometimes, the sad results of running businesses come to the public eye.

 
Carbonic Acid Gas – When you drank soda pops in those days, you took your chances. Too much cocaine, perhaps, but whatever, soda poppers wound up in the bin.
 
Decoyed into the Army – WTH? If you were crazy enough to dress up as a duck and try to join the army, a quack unit will accept you… Then march you off to the asylum.
 
Domestic Trouble – if your home isn’t tranquil, you are suspect. If your neighbors hear screaming, in the rest home, you’ll be dreaming.
 
Egotism – How far would’ve Donald Trump gotten in those days? Business stress. Politics. Congestion of the brain from heavy comb overs and egotism. Lots of padded walls.
 
Exposure – They didn’t take much truck with exhibitionists in those days, especially in the army. Wait a moment! Don’t those army guys shower together? How do you avoid? And heaven forbid you don’t expose yourself while you’re selling snake oil. That’ll get you an extra five years.
 
Fighting Fire – That’s one of the crimes to which you might get committed. No wonder towns burned down easily in the late 1800s. If you joined the Fire Fighters you’re signing your commitment papers.
 
Suppressed Masturbation – You know you want to do it. It’s not even all that far a reach and as long as you only do it for 29 years (see Part One) nobody is going to send you to the funny farm. But, not doing it when they can clearly see you’re hankering, well… Lots of folks done been locked away for not spanking the monkey.
 
Suppression of Menses – Seriously, was the Kotex of the day so inferior women just held it in? “I’m keeping mah eggs … And you ain’t gonna pound them outta me.” Sounds a little insane to us.
 
Uterine Derangement  –  Women better keep their uterus within a certain range. Not sure what that range is, being that stuff is pretty mysterious, but never-the-less, keep it there. And do you want to know how to get your uterus really deranged? Menses suppression.
 
Venereal Excesses – Venus getting around a little much. A little too much.
 
Vicious Vices – Some vices, in those days, were reasonable as long as they weren’t vicious. Not sure which Vices were considered Vicious. Serial killing? Mounting your horse even when it keeps saying “Nay”? Dropping rattlesnakes in the punch bowl?
 
Women Trouble – Here’s another WTF? When were the women of this day not trouble? They could split logs, knew how to handle several weapons, Annie Oakley style, would hog the Sears Catalog. I expect most of the men in West Virginia had this problem.
 
Superstition – Good thing there were no digital clocks in those days. Kissing the 11:11 for good luck could earn you a padded cell.
 
Snuff Eating for Two Years – Another time limit issue. Apparently they expect you to masturbate  15 times longer than dipping snuff. Not sure how they arrived at those ratios.
 
Greediness – You can be put away for greediness. Good thing Gordon Gecko wasn’t around.
 
Hard Study – will get you a ticket to the loony bin. Crack those books open … but not ALL THE WAY! We’re guessing midnight oil was precious.
nerd boy

It’s better when you catch them early.

 
Salvation Army – Really? I always thought those Santa impersonators were a little off. Can you imagine a whole wing of bell ringers?
 
Seduction and Disappointment – I guess they don’t mind if you seduce. But if a woman can charge you with short selling then there would be a lot of Sad Men for Lonely Women. We’re in the wrong era, gang.
 
Self Abuse – Are we talking the beyond 30 years mark? Five or more different ways a masturbator can be locked up. I don’t think you can win. Seducing without producing can lead to self abuse so in either case there’s a padded cell waiting for you.
 
Sexual Derangement – Geez, who wasn’t deranged? They had menstrual derangement, uterine derangement, five different masturbation crimes, crimes of drinking and tobacco.  If you abandon the missionary position, there’s a place for you.

 

Now you understand, right? You had no chance if you were alive back then. Be thankful you weren’t.

 

Norman, Oklahoma comedian and author, Stan Silliman, wrote eight cartoon humor books including “The News in Double Dactyls” awarded the Best Book of Poetry 2002 by Oklahoma Federation of Writers. He was named “Oklahoma City’s Funniest Person” in 2014 Stan wrote over 1400 jokes to win the on-line “Kwipster” contest in 2011 for topical joke writing. Check out his website: Silliman on Sports – a new sports and humor column.
©2015 all rights reserved, published with the author’s permission.

We have more Silliman for you to read. Read his interview with Big Bird here. Or some obscure facts about Elvis Presley that he dug up.

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