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Miranda Smith

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On March 25, 1837, a recent medical school graduate boarded a ship which, unbeknownst to him, would carry him into his future career. The ship was the Virginian, a sailing-vessel, traveling across the Atlantic Ocean from New Yark to Liverpool.1 The graduate was Pliny Earle, a twenty-seven year old Quaker from rural Massachusetts, who would become one of the most well-known and well-respected psychiatrists of the nineteenth century, as well as a prolific writer on the subject.


I would like to begin by expressing my most sincere gratitude to my project supervisor, Dr. Laughlin-Schultz, without whose guidance this thesis would not be what it is. Her words and suggestions not only made what initially seemed like an intimidating experience an enjoyable one but also made my writing, researching, and critical thinking skills immeasurably better. Thank you for a great year of research and writing, as well as tremendous support throughout the past year. With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, this was an unusual year for thesis research and writing, but I cannot imagine it going better with current conditions than it has.

I am also extremely grateful to Dr. Key for taking on the challenge of a Trans-Atlantic asylum independent study and helping me find Dr. Earle, his book, and the connection between America and European asylums we were hoping to find. His handling of the mid-semester transition from in-person meetings to video calls during the COVID-19 pandemic kept my research running smoothing, even in the midst of a statewide stay-at-home order.

Additionally, I wish to extend a huge thank you to Andrew Cougill, Booth Library at EIU, the Rubenstein Library at Duke University, the Medical Center Archives at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, and the American Antiquarian Society for providing me with more resources than I could have ever imagined available for one nineteenth-century psychiatrist.

I would also like to give my special thanks to Dr. Curry for getting this whole project started by suggesting I tum my paper from her Historical Research and Writing class about Kentucky's first public asylum into an honors research project. While the Kentucky asylum did not make it into this thesis, without her suggestion and encouragement, this project would not have existed.

Finally, I would like to thank my parents and the rest of my family for listening to me ramble about nineteenth-century psychiatry and asylums over the phone and dinner table for the past two years, for attending conferences when I presented my research, and all the "research funding" they have provided me with to finance the purchasing of obscure books and the seemingly infinite amount printer ink I have gone through in the course of my research. I would also like to thank you to my roommate, Olivia, for tolerating my late-night operating of the espresso machine and for not calling anyone whenever I started mapping the interconnected world of nineteenth-century psychiatry on a bulletin board with string like a conspiracy theorist. Finally, I would like to thank my fiance, Cullin, for talking with me about long-deceased doctors into the wee hours of the morning, making the two-hour drive from home to EIU to fix my constantly breaking printer, and being ever willing to visit me on his days off even when sometimes it meant just sitting on the same couch while I was deep in the world of Pliny Earle.

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