Skip to content

Museum of DisABILITY History

Idiocy in America

People with disabilities have faced challenges throughout history. Life was difficult and sometimes short. Social thought and economic considerations fueled the growth of the institutional systems that were beginning to emerge in America. The growing number of individuals in almshouses, poorhouses, and jails needed to be addressed.

The family of a person with a disability had the options of keeping the "child" home, or packing them off to the institutions for the insane, the blind, or the "Idiot Asylum."

This display contrasts the faces of people with disabilities and the manner in which they were portrayed to society and government officials. We have retained the exact language for historical accuracy. No offense is intended towards individuals with disabilities, their families or advocates.

Idiocy in America: The Path to the Institution 1850-1920 is also a traveling collection on display at various Western New York locations. For more information on bringing the exhibit to your area, contact us.

To read more on the subject now:

Instruction at the Idiot School
Eli Bowen
Brunswick Home