Jon Crispin's Notebook

Anna Lucille Earley, Willard Nurse

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I got a call a few weeks ago from Craig Williams telling me that a trunk had been discovered in the attic of the Covert Funeral Home in Ovid, NY that belonged to a woman who was a nurse at Willard in the early part of the 20th Century.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

At that time Craig wasn’t too sure of many of the details but thought I might be interested if anything came of it.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig has been working at the Romulus Historical Society with Peggy Ellsworth who worked at Willard and has been a great friend to the suitcases project.  Peg has been the go-to person for all things Willard since the institution closed in 1995.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Last Friday Paul McPherson who is the current director of the funeral home brought the trunk to the historical society for Craig and Peg to have a look.  They were really enthused and Craig called to see if I could take a few photos as he unpacked the items and started to conserve and catalogue the collection.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The contents of the trunk are in great shape, and it is amazing to see how well preserved the items are.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

I love seeing these old commercial products in their early packaging.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

There were several mounted photographs in the trunk, as well as this envelope which contain a large number of photographic negatives.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig scanned a few and the quality is amazing.

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The Willard baseball team was almost certainly made up of staff, and not patients.  But one has to wonder if any of the patients ever made it onto the diamond.

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I think this scan was from a print.  In addition to having worked at Willard as a nurse, she was a graduate of the institution’s school of nursing.  Craig and Peg are looking at the images to try to figure out which one in the photos is Anna.  None are identified on the back, so it might be quite a job.

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The above photo is especially exciting, as the building in the background is the sheltered workshop where the suitcases were stored in the attic and were rediscovered in 1995.  The collection of cases dates from 1910 to 1965 and Anna was at Willard starting in the late teens, so it is very likely that she worked with some of the owners.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As we found in many of the suitcases there is a broad range of items in Anna’s trunk; she had saved things that can tell a fairly complete story of her life, and more broadly, what life at Willard was like in the 1920s.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This box contains a lot of personal correspondence, including some very interesting postcards.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It took a minute to figure out this one.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

It became clear once we saw the “soldier’s mail” postmark.  Let’s hope H. C. Norris made it through the war safely.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

As a nurse at Willard, she would have lived on the grounds and received her mail there.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This inscription is especially touching and a bit mysterious.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Craig and I didn’t have much time to go through the notebooks, but this is a huge trove of original source material that will be interesting to study once everything is catalogued.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Perhaps the most intriguing is this small diary from 1918 which contains day to day accounts of Anna’s life at Willard.  To the left is a playbill for “Farmer’s Daughter” which played at Hadley Hall on the Willard grounds.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna’s Student’s Note Book is pretty interesting.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Her hand writing is very readable.   I didn’t see any crossed out sections as I flipped through the pages.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

This small brooch is pretty.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

The trunk itself is is great shape.

Trunk belonging to Anne Earley, nurse at Willard.

Anna is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Ovid.  Craig took this photo of her gravestone.

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The Romulus Historical Society will be putting an exhibit together of the trunk and contents sometime soon.  The museum is located in the town of Willard and is only open until the end of September.  It is not clear if anything will happen before then, but Peggy is eager for the collection to see the light of day.  I’ll update here when I know details.  There is obviously a ton of work to be done researching Anna’s life, but this is really an amazing find.

Special thanks go to Paul McPherson for contacting the historical society with this incredible look into the life of Anna.  A find like this really brings history alive.  It will be interesting to see what develops once everything is conserved and catalogued.  And as always thanks to Peggy Ellsworth for her tireless work in remembering the patients and staff at Willard, and to Craig Williams for keeping me in the loop.

 

 

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 2 March 2015

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I just uploaded another batch of photos to Margaret’s page.  Check it out if you get the chance.  (Make sure you click on the “view all” button; the default view is 25 per page.)

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I think this little Devon Violets vase is beautiful.

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This lone pill was wrapped in the paper on which it is placed.  It is difficult to read the pencil writing but it looks like amid(something) barbital.

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Having seen other photographs of her, I am quite certain that it is Margaret in these shots.

Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D / 17 February 2015

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Quite a few of the Willard residents brought small carved dogs with them.  This looks like a little Skye Terrier.  The thread collar is quite touching.

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The doggie theme is repeated here.  I believe that this is a strong thread wrapped around this paper that is used for bead work.

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There were thousands of these small (glass?) beads.

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I often tried to document Peg’s work and the care we took in putting everything back the way we found it.  These beads were difficult to wrangle, but I am pretty sure we got them all back in the bag.

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This photo really gets to me for some reason.  Check the comments for a description of this process as my pal Dhyan will probably chime in.  She has been following the project since early days, and I really appreciate her knowledge of anything to do with fabric and yarn.  Thanks Dhyan!

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Here’s some string wedged into a hair comb.  So many questions.

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I think we decided this is a post card of the well known dancer Ann Miller.  (Peg’s mom helped identify her if I remember correctly.)  I was pretty sure it was Bess Myerson.

I have started using the date of shooting in the title of these Margaret posts as it is the only way to differentiate the various posts from one another.  Check out the full uploads of Margaret’s things here.  There is a LOT more of her to come.

Willard Suitcases / Beginning Margaret D

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I have finished editing everything we shot in 2014 and have finally moved on to 2015.  Margaret D came to Willard with pretty much her entire household, including her car.  I have posted about her before, including this link which talks a bit about her life before Willard.

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She was a nurse who lived in the Ithaca area, and came to the institution with a number of highly starched uniforms and hats.

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Peg and I shot this trunk in February of 2014 and we finished photographing all of her possessions 4 months later.  Quite a collection.

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I will continue to post updates here as I work my way through all of Margaret’s things.

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It is exciting to think about completing the editing process on the project.  Once my schedule opens up I’ll be able to really push exhibits and publication.  Thanks for following, and to those of you who have been in direct contact I really appreciate the feedback.

Willard Suitcases / Michael D’A

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It was clear to us when we were setting up Michael’s shot that the wrapping contained crutches.

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They were in remarkable shape for being so old.

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Michael came to Willard from Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island, but unfortunately we don’t have a date for his admittance.

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As I was editing the photographs this morning, I couldn’t remember precisely why I took the closeup shot below.

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As I looked closely the faint marks on the crutch stood out.  I wonder if he was making them in order to count days at Ward’s Island before he came to Willard.

You can see the latest here.  Thanks for following.

Willard Patient Dress / Part 2

The Willard Suitcase Project

This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.

The Willard Suitcase Project

There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.

The Willard Suitcase Project

In the image below, I love how the two horizontal lines at the bottom of the dress seem to me to indicate water.  And is that a spigot just above the lines?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is the reverse side of the above figure.  I was thinking at the time we were shooting that people who do embroidery might like to see this view.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The faces she does are so expressive.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is another detail of a hand, and I am not sure what is represented coming out of what appears to be a pocket.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Is this another face?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Her use of lines is very cool.

The Willard Suitcase Project

I have been trying to figure out how the grid below fits in to the overall design.  At first I thought it represented a building, but I am not so sure.

The Willard Suitcase Project

And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

Thanks for checking this out.  I will continue my efforts to find the name of the Willard patient who created this.  In the meantime you can continue to see the latest uploads of the cases at the Willard Suitcases site.

Ovid / Willard Cemetery / NAMI Waco

I had a great meeting at the Edith B. Ford Library in Ovid, NY to talk about the possibility of working on an oral history project with former Willard employees.  Peter Carroll and I drove up from Ithaca this morning and met with Shannon O’Connor and Monica Kelly who both are doing amazing things at the library.  Monica is building an archive of Willard materials, and if anyone who reads this has any records or photographs related to the asylum, you should really contact her.

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Afterwards Pete and I drove to the Holy Cross Cemetery on Gilbert Road.

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Recently, a local group raised funds and erected a monument to Willard folks who died at the institution and are buried at Holy Cross.  I am not exactly sure what the problem is, but some people have objected to it, and so the monument has been covered up since just after it was unveiled.  The issue of naming former patients and staff continues to come up, and is still a problem on many levels.  I’ll be eager to find out what really happened here.

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After leaving Holy Cross, we drove over to the Willard Cemetery which is down the road and across the street from the asylum.  This is such an indescribably moving place for me. It was a really beautiful late Winter day and the idea that 5,776 former patients are buried here in unmarked graves always touches me deeply.

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The site is very well looked after, and the area around some of the few remaining numbered cast iron markers has recently been cleared of brush.

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And it is always nice to see the monument to Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient, dug by hand over 1500 of the graves.

I found out today that I have been invited to Waco, Texas to be the keynote speaker at the annual NAMI Waco dinner and gala.  The event is the evening of Thursday, 18th May and if you live anywhere nearby, I would love to meet you.

Willard Suitcases / Issac and Alice

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I continue to make good progress uploading to the suitcases site.  Issac’s case had just a few items, but the buttons are nice, as well as the safety pins.  I especially like the folding coat hangar.

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Peggy and I were thrilled to open Alice’s case and see the beautiful lining.

Check out the latest at willardsuitcases.com.

Thanks for following.

Willard Suitcases / December 2013

 

I have been editing and uploading the suitcases in the order in which they were shot.  This process is quite drawn out as I shot well over 30,000 images during the project and it is an enormous task.  I have been feeling really good about it though, as I am spending most days until 1 PM working on the files.  The photos in this post are all from a shoot on the 11th of December 2013.  At this point, Peg and I had worked through many of the suitcases that were full, and in this stretch the cases were largely empty except for labels.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Mary’s labels are quite evocative.  The small one on the left is unfortunately torn, so we can’t see her date of admittance, but the larger one on the right tells us that she came from Syracuse.  Dr Elliott’s name shows up often in our work, and I must assume that Elliott Hall at Willard is named after him.  (I can’t remember if I have ever linked to this before, but Dr. Robert E. Doran wrote a history of Willard in 1978 that is really interesting. Here is the link.)

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

There are so many small details that grabbed my attention when I was shooting.  This is all that was left of Mabel Y’s label.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Norah’s label tells us quite a lot.  Her Willard number, her date of admission, from where she came and into which building she went.  Peggy and I often had a laugh over the description of the suitcases; “leather-like” was used constantly.  And occasionally “cardboard-like” appeared.  When you think of it, cardboard-like is probably…..cardboard!

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Ida came to Willard on 16 November 1929.  The string on the label is pretty and the Syracuse Post-Standard is from June of 1929.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Charles and his small leather grip arrived from the Binghamton State Hospital.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Richard’s case was clearly a traveling salesman’s and was completely empty.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Here is a detail.  The Zanol Company was based in Cincinnati.

Willard Suitcases
©2012 Jon Crispin
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Finally for today, Alice R’s case had this nice thermometer, a clasp for holding up a stocking, and a card from a Christmas present.

Please go to the Willard Suitcases site to see more photographs of these particular cases.  Click on “The Cases” and scroll down to the bottom to see the latest additions.  Thanks for following.

Willard Open House

Posted in Willard Asylum by joncrispin on 12/05/2013

There will be a rare opportunity to see the grounds of Willard next Saturday the 18th May.  I have copied and pasted all the information that I have at this point, and you can view it below.   I would highly recommend that anyone who is in the area and is interested make the effort to attend.  /   This photograph is from my first visit to Chapin House after it had been closed for several years.

Willard Psychiatric Hospital WILLARD – Organizers of the guided tours at the former Willard Psychiatric Center on May 18 are trying something new. This year only two starting times are scheduled for tours so visitors will have more of a chance to explore 9 of the structures that grace the landmark hospital on Route 96A.

“We used to have three starting times but people never had enough time to travel through these incredible buildings so we decided to limit it to two,” said organizer Lee Anne Fox. “This will improve the flow of people and give our 35 volunteers the chance for a lunch break.”

The two-and-a-half hour tours are slated to begin promptly at 9:30am and 1pm at the Grandview Building, built in 1860 and now used by the Finger Lakes Federal Credit Union. Other buildings that will be recognized by those familiar with the site, which began its history in 1869 as the New York State Agricultural College, include Brookside, Bleak House, Hadley Hall and the Mortuary.
Current stones in the Willard Cemetery have only a number, and no name.

Current stones in the Willard Cemetery have only a number, and no name.

Former Willard hospital employees and some current staff of the Willard Drug Treatment Campus, which took over the property in 1995, will be available to answer questions and offer background during the event. Some may discuss ghost sightings that have been the subject of television shows. Visitors will also have the chance to inspect the Willard Cemetery where 5,776 Willard patients were buried from 1870 to 2000. An effort has been underway to restore the cemetery, which is adjacent to hospital grounds.
Cost of admission to the tour is $10 per person. Children under 12 years of age are free. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Child Care Center, an accredited not-for-profit daycare center in the Jackson Building, which once housed Willard’s School of Nursing and is also on the tour. Parking is free.

For additional information contact Carly Hungerford at (607) 869-5533.

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