Remembering Farnhurst

Stories from the Delaware State Hospital 1894-1920

by Katherine A. Dettwyler


Book Details

Stories from the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst

This compelling book includes 186 case studies of patients who were admitted to the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst between 1894 and 1920. Until now, their stories have remained hidden away, lost, forgotten, inaccessible. This book changes that by providing a detailed look at the lives of a wide variety of patients. Farnhurst is usually thought of as having been simply a “mental hospital” or “lunatic asylum.” In reality, the institution cared for people with many different conditions ranging from “congenital imbeciles,” to traumatic and acquired brain injuries, syphilis, epilepsy, delusions, schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, Huntington’s disease, acute intermittent porphyria, deafness, blindness, age-related senility, pregnancy-related conditions, substance abuse disorders, etc. – at a time when there were few or no other options for care and treatment. An important resource for reducing the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a mental illness or spending time in a mental institution, this book shows that every patient came from somewhere and had meaningful lives before, during, and after their time at the Delaware State Hospital. They were real individuals, each with their own story. Come meet them.


About the Author

Katherine A. Dettwyler

Katherine A. Dettwyler is an anthropologist well-known for her research on breastfeeding and weaning from cross-cultural and evolutionary perspectives. She received her Ph.D. from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1985, and is the author of the Margaret Mead Award-winning Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa (Waveland Press, 1993/2013). In 2012, she was given research access to seven ledgers from the Delaware State Hospital dating between 1894 and 1920. First, she converted the hand-written admission and medical information they contained – over 3,000 individuals – into a searchable database, now available through the Delaware Public Archives ( She then set out to explore in more detail the most interesting cases from the ledgers. This book is the result of that research. She is the wife of Steven P. Dettwyler, Ph.D., and together they are the parents of three remarkable adult children. She is currently working on a biography of Marjorie O’Connell Shearon.