Welcome to Kentucky Historic Institutions!

Before you get started, please check this post for updated information, quick tips, and information on how to obtain historical records. Are you interested in using any of our information? We are happy to accommodate requests. Common requests often include: use for blogs and/or websites, media use, as well as school and non-profit use. Secondary…

Insanity: Causes, Types, and Treatments

This is a three-part series regarding the historical causes, types, and treatments of insanity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Though focus is primarily on Kentucky institutions, these apply to other institutions throughout the United States. You can visit this page to read Kentucky’s historical lunacy laws. You can also check our glossary of anachronistic…

Kentucky’s Historical Lunacy Laws

Lunacy Laws The following is a compilation of lunacy laws that were established in the Commonwealth of Kentucky up to the year 1883. Please remember to keep these laws in a historical context when reading them. The book, in its entirety, is in the public domain and can be viewed freely online. To view the…

Kentucky’s Female-Led Bacteriology Laboratory

In 1910, Kentucky’s General Assembly established the Commonwealth’s first State Laboratory of Bacteriology in a tiny room in Bowling Green at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The room cost the state nothing and was also furnished by the hospital. Dr. Lillian H. South was voted, unanimously, as the State Bacteriologist making her among the first women in…

The Early Anti-Tuberculosis Movement in Kentucky

How Was Tuberculosis Medically Defined in the early 1900s? When affecting the lungs, it was often referred to as pulmonary tuberculosis or consumption and was classified as an infectious and communicable disease. It was common in humans and some animals, especially in cattle. About 1/4th of all deaths occurring in humans during adult life in…

The Louisville Mental Hygiene Clinic

Established in 1914, the Louisville Mental Hygiene Clinic began as a program of Louisville’s Board of Education as an attempt to aid with “unusual” children both “defective” and those of “superior” intelligence. Approximately six years later the program developed into a Psychological Clinic that was located on East Walnut Street. Aside from moving once again…

A Brief History of the Ambulance

Early Ambulance History In 1864 the United States Congress enacted the Union Army Ambulance Corps. Getting sick and wounded soldiers to surgeons as quickly as possible proved to be a frustrating issue with both the Union and Confederate armies. The sheer ratio of soldiers to surgeons prohibited most surgeons from going directly to soldiers on…

They Call Her Sybil: The Case of Shirley Ardell Mason

It was a case that entranced the entire nation and, arguably, the world during the 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur, a medical doctor, and psychiatrist, previously on staff at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, presented the case of Sybil Isabel Dorsett to the nation. The case of young Sybil resulted in a…

Epidemics and How History Can Potentially Save Lives

Epidemics in Kentucky Cholera Yellow Fever “Spanish” Influenza Tuberculosis Smallpox and Pest Houses Kentucky, and the world at large, is no stranger to epidemics. Whether it is cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis, or influenza, Kentucky has seen nearly everything. Perhaps the most well-known, or infamous, epidemic in Kentucky was “Spanish” influenza in 1918. At the early…

Resurrectionists in Kentucky & the New Albany Affair

“The anatomy of the human body must be studied, and with or in spite of legal enactments, it will be, for it is the true cornerstone of medical study. Without it the healing art would cease to be healing, the processes of disease would be unknown, the means of cure, a sealed book.” -Dr. David…

The 1833 Cholera Epidemic at Lexington, Kentucky

What is Cholera? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the toxigenic bacterium Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1 or O139. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe. Approximately one in 10 (10%) infected persons…

The 1878 Yellow Fever Epidemic at Hickman, Kentucky

The Progression of Yellow Fever Observations sur la fièvre jaune, faites à Cadix, en 1819 / par MM. Pariset et Mazet.Images from Wellcome Collection. CC BY. Development of yellow fever. What is Yellow Fever? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that is spread through…