1868: General Assembly Creates Connecticut Hospital For the Insane

The General Assembly of the State of Connecticut adopted on this day, “Act to create a Hospital for the Insane in the State of Connecticut.” Previously in the year, a commission which had been appointed by the legislature reported that there were 706 insane persons in the state most of whom could not afford care.  Thus was born the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane, now known as Connecticut Valley Hospital.  Land bordering on the Connecticut River in Middletown was chosen as the site for the new hospital.  It was easily accessible by water and land and included full control of Butler’s Creek, which was used as a source of water.  In October, 1866 Dr. Abram Shew was appointed the first superintendent.  The first patients, 12 men, were received on April 30, 1868.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

1818: Public Vaccination

The inhabitants of the town of Middletown are notified, that Doct. Syvanus Fansher has arrived in town, and will commence the general Vaccination, authorized by law.

The committee for the city, have appointed the following times and places for that purpose, viz–On Friday of the present week at the South Meeting-House, from the hours of 7 until 12 o’clock in the forenoon, and at the Lecture Room from 2 to 7 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day–and on Saturday following at the Brick School-House in the north District–to commence at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

The Gentlemen of the Committee appointed for other parts of the town, will consult with Doct. Fansher and assign time and places for a similar purpose.

The recent cases of natural Small Pox which have occurred in East-Haddam and other neighboring towns, it is presumed will excite Parents and Guardians to embrace (free of expense) the present opportunity of shielding their children and domestics against that infectious distemper. The Committee will attend on the days of Vaccination.



JOSEPH HUBBARD,     } Committee for the City.



June, 1818.

From The Middlesex Gazette, Thursday, June 18, 1818.

May 11 – Middletown 366


Wesleyan Baseball


On the back of the photograph: Andrus Field (behind N. College). Brown v. Wesleyan. 1889. Kidd at the bat. Score 8-8.

Note the Old Laboratory, torn down in 1907.



Pounded the Boy Who Wouldn’t Strike

Middletown, Conn., May 11.–Eighteen boy quillers in Starr Mills of the Russell Manufacturing Company struck today for a raise in wages from $3 to $3.50 per week and went out. The one boy who would not go was pounded until he did. The weavers were forced to pay off, as no quills were ready. It is thought that all will be at work Monday, as the strike is not upheld by the boys’ parents.

From the Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts), Sunday, May 12, 1895.


Baby Party

Middlesex Hospital baby party

April 30 – Middletown 366


Connecticut Hospital For the Insane Opens

On April 30, 1868, after a 13-month construction period, the hospital opened its doors for care of the mentally ill. In its first year of operation, the hospital admitted 268 patients.

The Connecticut legislature voted to make “ample and suitable provision for its insane” (400-500 patients estimated at the time) and established a Board of Directors to research other hospitals and to guide the project. Dorothea Dix, the legendary social reformer and advocate for the indigent mentally ill, was among those consulted, and she attended several of the early board meetings. After 150 acres were “offered gratuitously to the state for the purposes of the hospital,” another 80 acres of flatter land were purchased, deemed to be more suitable for building. A waterway known then as Butler’s Creek (probably present-day Reservoir Brook?) served as a source of fresh water.

Shew Hall
Shew Hall

A groundbreaking ceremony for the first building, still standing and known today as Shew Hall, took place on April 1, 1867.

“The slackness of the demand for labor and stone, incident to winter, and the fact of a ‘natural bridge’ of ice on the river were availed of for cheaply hauling to the site several hundreds of tons of sand and stone to be ready to use in the spring … also for the construction of a wharf very near the site.” (Middletown paid for the wharf.)

The cornerstone was laid on June 20.

Source: Connecticut Valley Hospital Archives, researched by Patricia Guerard.

Story submitted by John Hall.


Old Whaler Dead

Middletown, Conn., April 30.–George Comer, one of the last of the old New England whaling ship masters who accompanied Donald B. MacMillan on many expeditions to the Arctic, died last night. He was 79.

From the Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), Friday, April 30, 1937.


3 Wesleyan Buildings Damaged By Separate Blazes in 3 Hours

Middletown, Conn. (AP)–Separate fires, which police say were caused by fire bombs, did damage to three Wesleyan University buildings within three hours this morning.

The first blaze was reported at 3:15 a.m. in a Downey House on the corner of High and Court streets. The building houses a college store and dining hall.

The second was in a vacant house owned by Wesleyan on William Street.

The third was in a building on Willis [sic] Avenue used for offices, opposite the field house.

Firemen returned from the third fire shortly after 6 a.m., but no damage estimate was immediately available. No one was injured.

Although no connection with the fires was known, officials thought the blazes might be tied to a student strike at Wesleyan. The strike, by students sympathizing with the Black Panthers on trial in New Haven for the slaying of a fellow Panther, began Wednesday and was expected to continue today.

The number of students taking part in the strike was hard to estimate, since few classes meet on Wednesday.

The strikers held a rally Wednesday night and plan another for tonight, with either David Dellinger or Jerry Rubin of the Chicago Seven and Doug Miranda, captain of the New Haven Black Panthers, speaking.

From the Bridgeport Post (Bridgeport, Conn.), Thursday, April 30, 1970.

April 6 – Middletown 366


Birth of Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead

Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead was born in Canada and, once in Connecticut, rose to become a respected physician and healthcare pioneer for the Middletown community. In 1893, she married William Edward Mead, a professor at Wesleyan University. Hurd-Mead was a feminist force not to be ignored and she was one of the original founders of the Middlesex County Hospital in 1907. She remained the consulting gynecologists at Middlesex County Hospital until her retirement in 1925.

Perhaps one of Hurd-Mead’s most meaningful contributions to Middletown was her hand in the organization of the Middletown District Nurses Association, created in 1900. Additionally, she conducted her own extensive research on the presence women in medicine and published Medical Women of America in 1933. In 1938, she published A History of Women in Medicine: From the Earliest of Times to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century, a truly comprehensive history of women’s role in medicine.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


Cleveland’s Anti-Indian Jargon Order

Middletown (Conn.), April 6th.–At today’s session of the New York East Methodist Conference resolutions were passed instructing the delegates to ask for the appointment of a committee to consider the matter of the recent order of the Federal Government prohibiting the use of the Indian bible in the Indian mission schools, especially requesting that consideration be given to the question as to whether the Government has the right to prohibit the use of native languages in institutions receiving no pecuniary support from the Government.

From The Record-Union (Sacramento, Calif.), Saturday, April 7, 1888.


Man Joins Navy When Eldest Son Called

WWII card
WWII card

Middletown, Conn., April 6–(AP)–At a dinner here tonight for a group of men from Portland who will join the armed forces next week, William Ackerman Sr., 43, arose and announced that he was among the group because of a promise he had made to himself.

The promise was that he would join if the eldest of his eight children was drafted.

When William Jr., 20, was notified recently to report for examination, Dad went along. Both were accepted by the Navy and will start their training next week at Sampson, N.Y.

It won’t be all new for Ackerman Sr. He served a hitch in the Navy shortly after World War I.

From the Del Rio News Herald (Del Rio, Texas), Friday, April 7, 1944.

March 25: Middletown 366


By Going Without Breakfast Some People Hope For Relief.

Middletown, Conn., has probably the most novel organization in existence. It is called the Go-Without-Your-Breakfast club, and the members are all dyspeptics. They hope by abstaining from eating breakfasts to effect a cure of the malady from which they are suffering. The theory that breakfasts are a fruitful cause for indigestion had its origin with a leading physician of Middletown. During sleep, he claims, the muscles of the stomach are resting. Gastric juice, that indispensable element for digestion, is not supplied then, nor is a sufficient quantity created in the stomach to digest a meal until nearly noon, or, rather, not until three or four hours after rising. If breakfast is eaten it is merely rolled around the stomach. Consequently the stomach ferments and produces material for discomfort in mind and body. Nature supplies only enough pepsin during 24 hours for two meals a day, and noon and evening are the proper times to eat. Accordingly, no breakfast should be eaten.

Hunger and appetite are two different sensations. Appetite can be indulged, but hunger must be satisfied. One should eat when hungry and then a good appetite will be enjoyed. The good results of this treatment are claimed to be these: Your normal weight will be gained; overfat people will lose their oppressive pounds and the lean will take on good flesh. The brain will be clearer, the nerves steadier, the muscles stronger and the spirits brighter. Brain workers and physical toilers will find that they have uniformity of ability for application. It is a remedy which does not need money or time, only some resolution and courage to break up a habit. It is not a hardship, except in imagination, for as a usual thing one is not hungry at breakfast time. If some inconvenience is experienced at first, the feeling is simply the “dying agonies of a bad habit.” Before condemning it give the cure a trial during a month. After one week, and sometimes sooner, its followers will feel themselves in better condition for all kinds of work.

In towns and communities which have been struck by the cure whole households have abandoned the old style of breakfast as soon as the family are dressed and the go-without-your-breakfast cure is declared to be the solution of the diet problem. At any rate, that is what is said by the people who have tried the cure. In Middletown, where the breakfast cure is followed with enthusiasm, the college professor and the theological student greet each other in the morning with the question:

“Did you go without your breakfast?”– Chicago Chronicle.

From The Wyandott Herald (Kansas City, Kansas), March 25, 1897.


Main and Washington Streets 1939
Corner of Main & Washington Streets, March 25, 1939.

March 15 – Middletown 366


Vigorous Critic of A. M. A.

Veterans’ Hospital Care Defended by Legion’s National Chief.

Old Point Comfort, Va., March 15 (AP)– The national commander of the American Legion has attacked the American Medical Association for its official stand on veterans’ hospitalization and said he is “troubled” that the A. M. A. “should declare war on sick people.”

Arthur J. Connell of Middletown, Conn., spoke at the concluding session of the 2-day spring conference of the Virginia department of the American Legion at the Hotel Chamberlain here.

“In recent months the A. M. A.’s chief spokesmen have been telling the country that the veterans’ hospital program is a big mistake, that it is leading to socialism and worse, that the only solution lies in denying hospital care to patients who cannot prove that their disability is directly related to war service,” said Connell.

Connell said 5,000 patients in thirty-six VA hospitals were questions and less then 2 percent showed the slightest indication of being able to afford private hospitalization.

From the Kansas City Times (Kansas City, Missouri), Tuesday, March 16, 1954.


Main Street Civil Rights March

Over 400 protesters marched on Middletown’s Main Street to stir attention about the Civil Rights Movement in Middletown, Connecticut. This demonstration was preceded by a three-day conference at Wesleyan University, wherein members of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Northern Student Movement gathered together along with hundred Middletown citizens.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

1912: Women to Walk Off Fat

The Six Who Lose Most Will Be Entertained By Other Half Dozen.

Middletown, Conn., March 5.–Seeking to reduce their weight, a dozen of the most prominent women of Deep River, a few miles below here, have organized a club which will go upon semi-weekly walks during the next few months.

The club has been divided into two sections under the leadership of captains, and at the end of six months the half-dozen whose weight aggregates the most will entertain the other six with their husbands.

From The Evening Post (Frederick, Maryland), March 5, 1912.


February 25: Middletown 366


Fatal Ithaca Typhoid

Special to The Leader.

Middletown, Conn., Feb. 25.–Louis Hubbard, aged 22, a sophomore in Cornell University, died at his home here to-day of typhoid fever. He was the son of Robert P. Hubbard, former selectman, and came home ill two weeks ago. — From The Allentown Daily Leader (Allentown, Pa.), Feb. 25, 1903.


Rector Prefers Bad Boys For Sunday School Pupils

Connecticut Pastor Says There is More Hope of Making a Good Citizen of Him Than His Opposite.

Middletown, Conn., Feb. 25.–The Rev. George B. Gilbert, rector of Christ’s Episcopal church in this city, has been making a study of the boy problem and announces that there is really more hope of developing the typical bad boy than the typical good boy into a useful citizen.

Mr. Gilbert prefers bad boys for Sunday school pupils and the more devilry they display the more hope he has of them.

It was announced today that he has rented a fifty acre farm, bordering on a small lake, and will turn it into a practical plant for making bad boys into useful citizens.– From The Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb. 26, 1910.


1961: Middletown Tests Oral Polio Vaccine

Middletown, Jan. 25—(UPI) “Approximately 3,500 children ranging in age from three months to high school teenagers, took painless Sabin oral anti-polio vaccine yesterday in the state’s first program of its kind.

The remaining 6,500 school children and 3,000 to 4,000 pre-school children will be given the oral vaccine within the next few days.

The youngsters will get two more swallows of the vaccine later to complete the immunization program.

The program is being conducted in cooperation with the Yale School of Medicine.” – From The Bridgeport Post, Jan. 25, 1961.