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State Infirmary Patient Registers

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2005-41

Scope and Contents

This series consists of State Infirmary patient registers. The registers, covering 1874-1927, date from the period when the State Infirmary was named the State Almshouse. The registers' format remains consistent throughout the fifty years. Each volume includes a name index indicating the page on which each individual's registration appears. The information for each individual includes name, date of admission, age, town of residence, birthplace; birthplace of parents; color, conjugal status, and literacy (read/write), and religion. The forms also provide space for information concerning criminal and temperance history as well as criminal information concerning the mother and father. The form also includes space for the cause of admission and condition upon admission. Finally the form indicates the date of discharge and the disposition of the individual (living or deceased) at the time of discharge.


  • 1874-1927

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

No special restrictions unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.

Biographical / Historical

Throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, care of the poor, sick, and the mentally disabled rested with each of Rhode Island's towns and cities. Often, it also depended on the generosity of private citizens like Ebenezer Knight Dexter in whose name Providence's Dexter Asylum for the poor and insane was established in 1828. State poor laws, which date back to the earliest colonial period, had provided general principles for the towns’ responsibilities toward the poor.

The state only became more directly involved in the care of the poor in the 1860s when it appointed a Commissioner to inspect the places where the towns' "insane poor, indigent persons, or paupers are kept.” (Public 1864, ch. 502.) In its 1868 report to the General Assembly, however, a committee looking into the issues of the insane explained that it had been necessary to broaden its' inquiry to include "a thorough investigation and review of the whole subject of pauperism." The committee concluded that state action regarding the insane should properly be taken "with reference to its natural connection with pauperism." Beyond this, the committee also proposed that crime bore a relationship to their investigation, as "Insanity, pauperism and crime are evils which breed upon each other." Rhode Island. Acts, Resolve and Reports, Report of the Joint Committee on the State Asylum for the Insane. Report on the State Asylum for the Insane. Appendix #7. January 1868. 10pp

A state facility for the poor was first established with the creation of the State Board of Charities and Corrections in 1869 (Public Law 1869, Ch. 814.) Though officially established in 1869, the State Almshouse did not really begin operations until 1874, when it was finally able to occupy a facility vacated by the State Workhouse and House of Corrections. The history of the almshouse, like that of the other State Institutions, is a story of ever expanding inmate populations outpacing the capacity of the facilities the state had provided for housing and caring for them, as well as changing prescriptions for proper inmate, patient, and prisoner care. It was not until 1888 that the government provided funds for the construction of a new facility specifically dedicated to the almshouse. The building was completed in 1889.

By the first decade of the twentieth century, according to the Board's annual reports, the almshouse was functioning less like a poorhouse and more like "a large hospital having a total of 609 persons needing medical care and supervision.” (Annual Report of the Board of State Charities and Corrections in Rhode Island Rhode Island. Report of Resident Physicians in State Institutions 1912.) For this reason, perhaps, the name "State Almshouse" was changed in 1917 to the State Infirmary by legislation establishing the Penal and Charitable Commission in 1917.


8 Volumes


This series consists of State Infirmary inmate registers spanning the period 1874-1927. There are few entries for the 1870s.




No accruals are anticipated at this time.

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Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA