The Byberry mental hospital was a turn of the 20th century institute for the mentally ill. It has since become a byword for brutality in healthcare. The hospital was turned over to the state in 1936 and was renamed the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry. Conditions in the hospital during this time were poor, with allegations of patient abuse and inhumane treatment made frequently. The situation came to national attention between 1945 and 1946, when conscientious objector Charlie Lord took covert photos of the institution and the conditions inside while serving there as an orderly. The 36 black-and-white photos documented issues including dozens of naked men huddling together and human excrement lining facility hallways. The photos were shown to a number of people, including then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who subsequently pledged her support in pursuing national mental health reforms. In May 1946 Lord’s photos were published in an issue of Life, creating a national “mass uproar”.
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