Bagg’s Hotel – Utica, New York, 1848

Alfred DeWitt, a 29-year-old New York Customs House clerk, wrote to his father Peter from Utica on New Year’s Day in 1848. His letter documents the two-day journey he made to deliver his mentally-ill, 21-year-old brother Robert Gosman DeWitt to the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica and describes the commitment process, a tour of the male and female wards, and two consultations with asylum superintendant Dr. Amariah Brigham. He begins:

Bagg’s Hotel Bagg’s Hotel B Bagg’s Hotel
Utica, January 1st 1848Utica, Janu Utica, January 1st 1848
Dear Father
William has nWilliam has no doubt told you that he left us safe in
the Cabin of the Steam Boat. Soon after we left the City Captain Brooks had
a good bed made on a pile of mattresses on which Robert laid very
comfortably until we arrived at Bridgeport, where we changed for the Cars
and through the kindness of the Conductor we procured what is called the
Ladies apartment entirely for ourselves, which contains a seat well cushioned
long enough for Robert to lay his full length, we took off our overcoats and
pillow we brou(pillow we brought)
with the Cushion,^ we made a very comfortable Bed, and by keeping him
well wrapped, he did not suffer the least from the cold,on arriving opposite
Albany I secured our baggage as quick as possible and engaged a sleigh,
the only conveyance I could find at hand,and proceeded across the river i
the ferry boat to Congress Hall, Albany, where after arranging him comfortable
in Bed and getting [our] Suppers I sent a dispatch by Telegraph to an-
nounce to you our safe arrival, we had a fine, warm, room and everything
well arranged and I made every effort to induce Robert to eat both on
the Road and at the Hotel but without success, he drank a little wine
& occasionally water, I procured a pitcher & tumbler shortly after leaving Bridge-
port and we kept it with us, procuring fresh water every opportunity until our arrival
at the Asylum, during Thursday night Robert slept but a short time, in
fact he did not appear to be much fatigued by the journey _ on Friday morning
we dressed him and took the Cars at 7 1/2 O’clock for this place, and we were
again favored with the ladies apartment in the Cars, where we made him lay
down and he appeared to be very comfortanle for the rest of the journey. Sheldon
and myself were continually active in arranging him and changing his position
during the journey, occasionally I placed the pillow against my chest and held
him in my arms and allowed him to look out of the window whenever it
[would allow] was prudent, while going through Cuts I was careful to have the

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