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Medical News & Perspectives |

At Pennsylvania Hospital, 250 Years of Care

Marsha F. Goldsmith
JAMA. 2001;285(18):2313-2316. doi:10.1001/jama.285.18.2313.
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Philadelphia—On a full city block in Society Hill, a short walk from Independence Hall, surrounded by azaleas and wisteria and overseen by a statue of state founder William Penn, sits the original Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in this country. Established on May 11, 1751, by a charter granted by the Pennsylvania legislature through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, MD, the hospital this week celebrates 250 years of caring for the community.

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Pennsylvania Hospital at the start of the 19th century enjoyed a bucolic setting, as depicted here by famous Philadelphia printmaker Thomas Birch. The brick wall, built to protect the "lunaticks" from the curious public, helped preserve the pristine grounds that surround the Pine Building today. (Credit: Pennsylvania Hospital Archives)

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A portrait of Benjamin Rush painted by Thomas Sully in 1813 hangs outside the Historic Library. (Credit: Pennsylvania Hospital Archives)

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The "tranquilizing chair" Rush devised for "treatment" of patients with mental illness. (Credit: Pennsylvania Hospital Archives)

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Some of Pennsylvania Hospital's resident physicians relax in their living quarters in the Pine Building during the 1880s. (Credit: Pennsylvania Hospital Archives)

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Preparing to operate in the surgical amphitheater (the "dreaded circular room") in the 1800s (left) and in more modern surroundings in the 1920s. (Credit: Pennsylvania Hospital Archives)

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