In 1813, members of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends established the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason. They built a new hospital on a 52-acre farm in the city’s Frankford section, which was opened to patients in May 1817.
This hospital still exists today, but is known by a different name. What is it called?
Answer: Friends Hospital
When it was first opened by the Quakers, the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason was the first private institution in America dedicated exclusively to the care of the mentally ill. In addition to providing medical aid, their constitution, which was drawn up in April 1813, stated that the asylum would give “sympathetic attention and religious oversight” in order to “sooth [the patients] agitated minds.” Listed among the early contributors were many prominent local Quakers such as Caleb Cresson, Robert Vaux, and Joseph Parrish. Charles Lukens, M.D., served as the asylum’s first resident physician. It became known as the “Friends Asylum” or the “Friends Asylum for the Insane” and had changed its name to Friends Hospital by 1916.
The hospital still exists at its original location, but today is bordered by Roosevelt Boulevard and Tacony Creek Park. It continues the tradition of using Quaker values when caring for patients in the same vein as its founders.
HSP’s library contains annual reports of the hospital dating from 1816 to 1984 (Call number Wh .54). In addition, we have significant manuscript collections form several prominent Quaker families, including the Vauxs (#684) and the Parrishes (#154). Members from these and other Quaker families were readily involved in early development of such institutions as the Pennsylvania Prison Society (#1946) and the Philadelphia public school system (#2088).