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July 5, 1976

Independence and Early American Hospitals, 1751-1812

Author Affiliations

From the University of Delaware, Delaware Technical and Community College, Georgetown.

JAMA. 1976;236(1):35-39. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270010023005

John Adams once said that the American Revolution was complete in the minds of his countrymen before the Revolutionary War. St. John de Crevecoeur, a French immigrant to the United States during the 18th century, observed that the American was not a transplanted European, but "a new man who acts upon new principles...." If Adams and Crevecoeur were correct, this new and revolutionary man could be expected to conjure up new and unique medical institutions quite different from contemporary European models. But this was not the case. Indeed, the first genuine hospitals to be founded in the 13 colonies were transplanted British voluntary hospitals which found the climate and soil of the New World quite conducive to growth.

The first enduring colonial institution to offer medical care to the sick was the almshouse. By the mid-18th century most of the leading ports in Anglo-America had constructed almshouses patterned after the