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Monday, July 25, 2016

Madness Monday: State Hospital for Mental Diseases, Howard, Rhode Island

In 1930, Samuel A. Thomas, the son of my 3rd-great-grandfather's sister Catherine Bennett Winters, resided at the State Hospital for Mental Diseases, located in the unincorporated place Howard, in Cranston, Providence County, Rhode Island.

1930 United States census, Cranston, Providence County, Rhode Island, population schedule, enumeration district no. 4-197, sheet no. 22A. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.

Samuel died on 11 May 1933 in Howard, Cranston, Rhode Island. He probably died at the State Hospital for Mental Diseases.

In 1869, the more than 417 acre William A. Howard farm in Cranston, Providence County, Rhode Island was purchased. The property was to be used for a state asylum for the insane and poor, a state workhouse, and a house of corrections. In 1870, eighteen wood-framed buildings were built, and in November, 118 patients were admitted to the asylum.

Music therapy began at the hospital in 1881, when twelve canaries and six cages were purchased and placed in the halls. In 1900, an orchestra was established; it included one patient musician. Another patient joined the orchestra in 1904. An organ was purchased in 1925. The same year, the hospital choir gave a concert at a local radio station.

Hydrotherapy began in 1927. Patients were given baths, wet sheet packs, salt glows, foot baths, needle sprays, fan douches, and rain douches. Hydrotherapy was most frequently used as a form of restraint; some patients received continuous baths.

Some patients did chores, such as housekeeping and farm labor. In 1930, Samuel A. Thomas did not do any work, but some of the other patients worked in the ward, laundry, dining room, or industries.

The State Hospital for Mental Diseases is now the Eleanor Slater Hospital.

Golden, Janet, and Schneider, Eric C. Custody and Control: The Rhode Island State Hospital for Mental Diseases, 1870, 1970. Rhode Island History 41(4), November 1982, pp. 113-125.
History- Rhode Island -Dept of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals


  1. My grandmother is located in the Rhode Island 1920 Census at the State Hospital for Mental Diseases, Howard. She was there until 1930. A family member just inquired at the Rhode Island Historical Society and at the now, Eleanor Slater Hospital for my grandmother's records. She was informed by both locations that the records were destroyed. At the State Hospital, the clerk questioned the records department and recalled that she had seen such records. She took contact information and said that she would inquire further for our family. I wonder if you had investigated to obtain records from the facility and what was your experience?
    Thanks, Joyce

  2. My great grandmother,Phoebe Jane Tingley Hood was also listed as an an "inmate " at Howard on the 1930 census,coincidentally, I spent 3 months training there as a student nurse with RIHSN in 1969. I would also like to know if anyone has any knowledge of existing records .

  3. Dear Joyce,
    Did you ever get those records? I am hoping to get the medical records of my 2x great-grandfather. If you did, who exactly did you contact?

  4. Did anyone ever have any luck getting old records?