Since I’ve gone to work at a place where I look up other people’s relatives in the census on a daily basis, I’ve been amazed at the institutions that are enumerated, and the information found within. I learn something new every time I find one of these. I’ve posted previously about the prison population posted in the 1900 census for Detroit, Michigan.
The most recent find is the 1900 enumeration of the “St. Louis Insane Asylum” in, where else, St. Louis, Missouri. There are 15 pages of records–the first page and half or so are employees and the rest are listed as inmates. Hugo M. Vollmer, census taker, appears to have done a very thorough job. I wonder how he did his work–did he go through records, did he interview staff, did he interview inmates, how did he gather all this information? A check on him reveals that he is a 26 year old clerk employed at the Asylum, born in Missouri to Germany-born parents. That makes me believe that he probably did his work from the records at his disposal. 1900 is the census year that gives the month and year of birth, the year of immigration and citizenship, plus the place of birth and that of the entry’s parents. Most of the places of birth for parents is entered as “unknown” for the inmates. But, a profession listed for each person, including Alice McCormack, Irish-born 28-year-old prostitute. There’s 68-year-old female physician Sarah L. Jones–what is her story? I kept coming across “nihil” listed in the profession column. It took me a while to realize this meant “none,”–as in “nil,” I suppose.
It would be interesting to compare the demographics of this population with those of St. Louis at large–for example, many of the inmates appear to have been foreign-born. I was somewhat surprised to find a few more males than females listed.
There’s more information about the Asylum at Early St. Louis Hospitals, Homes, and Asylums.