Wisconsin Tuberculosis and Consumption Sanatorium


Background of Tuberculois

Tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial disease which affects the respiratory system, but also affects other areas of the body (skin, circulatory system, bones, etc.). It can be spread from human to human and from mammals such as cows to humans. Early U.S. infections were started by the drinking of unpasteurized cow milk. Poor living conditions, inclement weather and lack of sunlight are all contributing factors to the spread of this contagious disease. Tuberculosis is also referred to as Consumption or Wasting Disease because of its effect on the body.

Herman Brehmer, a Silesian (Prussian) botany student introduced the idea of the sanatorium as a cure for consumption. After being diagnosed with TB, he took his doctor's advice of living healthier and travelled to the Himalayan mountains where he could pursue his botanical studies and try to heal. He recovered and in 1854, he presented his doctoral dissertation bearing the title, "Tuberculosis is a Curable Disease". He built an institution in Gorbersdorf in the same year. These sanatoria served two purposes, they isolated the sick and they enforced rest, proper diet in a regulated hospital atmosphere.

Tuberculosis in the United States

During the 19th century, consumption claimed more lives than any other disease. Improvements in housing, nutrition, sanitation, and medical care in the first half of the 20th century aided in the decrease of the number of deaths. During the 1940s and '50s antibiotics were introduced and the numbers continually declined until 1985. The number of deaths and reported cases then began to increase until 1992. There are now a lower number of reported cases and from 1992 to 1999, there was a 34 percent reduction in TB mortality cases.

The first sanatorium (also spelled sanitarium, plural sanatoria or sanatoriums or sanitariums) in the United States was privately owned. In 1885, Dr. E.L. Trudeau established the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium (New York State). Numerous other private institutions were founded in various localities in the mountainous regions of the east, as well as the more arid regions of the west and southwest. Most of these were for pay patients. (not state or community funded) This did not afford adequate care to those most susceptible to the disease, the poor and indigent.

Massachusettes was the first state to establish a state sanatorium in 1895.

The Federal Government made provision for the treatment of its soldiers and sailors at
Fort Bayard and Fort Stanton in New Mexico. All classes of cases were sent there.

Sanatoriums in Wisconsin

In 1905 an act was passed in Wisconsin State Legislature authorizing the construction of a State-owned tuberculosis Sanatorium.

See also 1916 List of Sanatoria in Wisconsin
See also 1919 List of Sanatoria in Wisconsin
See also Criteria for Location Selection
Life in Wisconsin Sanatoriums-offsite link by John T. Wells

Wisconsin State Legislation

1903-An act was passed authorizing the governor to appoint three commissioners to investigate the condition relative to tuberculosis and to report on the feasibility of a state sanatorium in 1904.

1905-An act was passed authorizing that 2,000 copies of the report of the above commission be printed.

1905-An act was passed providing for the establishment of a state sanatorium for tuberculosis. Ninety thousand dollars was appropriated by this act for construction and $25,000 for maintenance.

1907-An additional amount of $30,000 was appropriated for construction purposes and $40,000 for maintenance for this institution.

1907-Chapter 93 of the laws of 1907 amends the health laws so that tuberculosis is included in the list of diseases that must be reported by the attending physicians to the department of health in their own city. This act also provides for the disinfection and renovation of premises after death or removal of a tuberculosis patient.

1909-A permanent livestock board was created by the Legislature.

1911-An act authorizing counties to establish sanatoria for the care of advanced cases, carrying with it an appropriation of $20,000 per year for state aid to county sanatoria at the rate of $3.00 per week per indigent patient.

1913-An amendment made to the county sanatorium law raising the state aid to $5.00 per week providing the appropriation of $50,000 per year.

1913-An act was passed giving counties authority to appropriate money for a county visiting nurse, money for her salary and expenses to be taken from the liquor license funds.

1913-An act preventing the dry sweeping of public buildings except by vacuum cleaners.

1913-An act providing for the compulsory commitment by a county judge of all careless consumptives upon the complaint of any citizen. Patient may be discharged when the county judge may think it proper to do so.

1913-An act establishing a camp for convalescent consumptives on the state forest reserve. Only those predisposed to tuberculosis or with the disease arrested and running no temperature are received. A charge of $3.50 per week is made and patients are allowed to earn their maintenance by working on the forest reserve under the direction of a physician.

1913-An act authorizing county or city boards to employ visiting nurses.

1913-By regulation of the Board of Health no persons having tuberculosis is permitted to attend schools, except open air schools.

1913-An act was passed requiring proper disposal of sputum.

1913-An act was passed authorizing a county board of supervisors to establish an institution for the treatment of tuberculosis.

1913-An act was passed authorizing the State board of control to make provision for the segregation, care and treatment of insane patients having tuberculosis.

1913-An act was passed prohibiting the use of common drinking cup in public places.

1915-An amendment to the county sanatorium law raising the appropriation for State aid to $100,000 for the first year and $125,000 for the second year of the biennium. It was also amended so that incipient and early stage cases can be cared for as well as advanced cases.

1915-An act authorizing a county which is taking care of an indigent patient who is not a resident of said county, to charge the county in which patient has a legal settlement for his maintenance.

1915-An act authorizing several counties to unite in building a sanatorium. One citizen from each of said counties to be elected to serve on a Board of Trustees, while the treasurer of county in which sanatorium is located shall receive all moneys paid in to the institution and shall disburse any money necessary for its construction and maintenance. The cost of maintenance shall be divided among the counties according to the number of patients cared for from each county; while the first cost of construction shall be divided among the counties according to the taxable property in each.

Municipal Legislation
LaCrosse (30,417)
City employees a public health nurse who has two assistant student-nurses. She visits cases and gives bedside treatment when she can. City makes free examination of sputum and distributes sputum cups. Commissioner of Health: Dr. J.M. Furstman

Madison (25,531)
Board of Health regulation requires disinfection of premises Health Officer: James P. Donovan

Milwaukee (373,857)
City ordinance prohibits spitting (1905) City maintains a tuberculosis sanatorium; has five tuberculosis dispensaries; has one open air school, employs nine visiting nurses; makes free examinations of sputum; and distributes literature, sputum cups, food, clothing, etc. Commissioner of Health: Dr. George C. Ruhland

Oshkosh (33,068)
City ordinance prohibits spitting (1910). County has a sanatorium. City has one open air school room; has one visiting nurse under direction of School Board; makes free examination of sputum; and provides aid for very poor patients. Health Officer: Dr. A. H. Brock

Racine (38,008)
County maintains a sanatorium. City has two open air schools; employs one visiting nurse; and makes free examinations of sputum. Chief of Police and Health Officer: H.C. Baker

Superior (40,384)
There is a local anti-spitting ordinance. Tuberculosis was included in the list of infectious diseases to be reported (1910). The county in 1910 appropriated $7,000 for a tuberculosis hospital. Health Officer: Dr. C.M. Gould