Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York
This event includes a book signing
June 1, 2018
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome STACY HORN—author of Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others and founder of social network Echo—for a discussion of her latest book, Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.
About Damnation Island
Today it is known as Roosevelt Island. In 1828, when New York City purchased this narrow, two-mile-long island in the East River, it was called Blackwell’s Island. There, over the next hundred years, the city would build a lunatic asylum, prison, hospital, workhouse, and almshouse. Stacy Horn has crafted a compelling and chilling narrative told through the stories of the poor souls sent to Blackwell’s, as well as the period’s city officials, reformers, and journalists (including the famous Nellie Bly).
Damnation Island re-creates what daily life was like on the island, what politics shaped it, and what constituted charity and therapy in the nineteenth century. Throughout the book, we return to the extraordinary Blackwell’s missionary Reverend French, champion of the forgotten, as he ministers to these inmates, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Corrections Department and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man’s inhumanity to man.
For history fans, and for anyone interested in the ways we care for the least fortunate among us, Damnation Island is an eye-opening look at a closed and secretive world. In a tale that is exceedingly relevant today, Horn shows us how far we’ve come—and how much work still remains.
“Through a wealth of harrowing anecdotes and fascinating case-studies, Damnation Island tells the real story of how America has treated its poor, its tired, and its huddled masses: with petty cruelty, often in the name of Christian charity. A gripping and compelling read.” —Mikita Brottman, author of The Maximum Security Book Club
“Riveting. Horn brings alive this forgotten history, and her extraordinary book has far-reaching significance not only for the past but for the future.” —Jan Jarboe Russell, bestselling author of The Train to Crystal City
“At Blackwell’s, the inmates really were running the asylum. An important piece of history in public medicine, Damnation Island weaves a compelling narrative with threads of thorough research and realism.” —Julie Holland, M.D., author of Weekends at Bellevue
“New York’s Victorian-era reformers had an idea: to isolate the city’s indigent, diseased, mentally ill, and delinquent on an island in the East River, where they could be cared for with competence and compassion. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. Stacy Horn is the perfect Virgil for this chilling, vivid, and enthralling journey through the Inferno that was 19th-century Blackwell’s Island.” —Gary Krist, author of Empire of Sin
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.
While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.
Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:
- Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
- Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
- Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.
Ordering a signed book by phone:
- Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
- If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.
Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.
Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!
Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.
I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.
More questions? Give us a call!
Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
Featured event books will be for sale at the event. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
New This Week
Shop this week's new arrivals, updated every Tuesday.Learn More »
Shipping & Curbside Pickup
We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!Learn More »
Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!