The Gates of Hell: American Journal of Insanity Volume 1 (1844) Denounces Asylums

In 2009, I read the original volume of the the American Journal of Insanity (today’s American Journal of Psychiatry published by the American Psychiatric Association.  I always remembered an article about opposition to the establishment of asylums, going as far as using Dante’s “Gates of Hell” and that people within them should be instructed to abandon all hope. I had a photocopy of it, but long seem to have lost it, and it is something I always felt really needed to be academically cited as a lost piece of history, found (or maybe buried, and uncovered). . . 

Recently, I was informed that all of the American Journal of Insanity was digitized. I found the cite (;view=1up;seq=53). 

I found the article!

“Article IV, Articles Exclusively for the Incurable Insane” (1844, pp. 50- 52) is written in response to”benevolent individuals” (p. 50) suggesting that “public Asylums should be built on a cheap plan solely for those supposed to be incurable” (p. 50) as a  potential model to replace the failing poor and almshouses. 

The authors wrote:

“We are opposed to them principally on these grounds”(p. 50)

The authors offer four reasons for their opposition. They close their fourth reason for what shall happen if asylums are built, that:

“consigning them [inmates] to a house over the entrance of which, Dante’s lines on the gates of Hell might well be inscribed” (p. 52).

These authors were clear, that if their warnings in opposing the design of asylums were not heeded, over the door of the asylum, :

“Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here.” (p.51)

(They both printed and translated Dante’s lines)

Through the Babel-Hathitrust the Journal of Insanity was digitized. You can google it – or see if this link will bring you there:;view=1up;seq=53

— (1844). Article IV.: Asylums Exclusively for the Incurable Insane. Journal of Insanity, I, pp. 50-52. Retrieved on August 10, 2015 from;view=1up;seq=53.

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