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Kingston Avenue Hospital and the Fate of Theodore Perry

Posted on January 25, 2021

Boris Schleifer photograph Collection, 1926 Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History

The Kingston Avenue Hospital is one of many that have come and gone in Brooklyn over the years. Founded in 1890, the hospital specialized in infectious diseases during a time when small pox, polio, diphtheria and scarlet fever were common.

Sadly, for some, their short stay at Kingston Avenue Hospital included all of the above. And that was the case for Theodore Perry.  In 1901 at the age of five Theodore Perry from Patterson, NJ was brought to Kingston Avenue Hospital with a case of scarlet fever. While there he contracted measles and diphtheria which sadly killed him. According to the reporting in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle he was placed in a ward with over 40 other scarlet fever patients. In that article his grief-stricken mother went on to say that she forced her way into the ward and found to her horror that there were only two nurses to care for over 40 patients. She also, chillingly, mentioned the hordes of flies that were carrying disease from one patient to another.

Strangely, Dr. P.J. Murray, superintendent of the Kingston Avenue Hospital offered a very different reason for the boy’s death. It was not the flies or the overcrowded conditions, according to Dr. Murray. It was simply a matter of his scarlet fever having gotten so bad that the other two disease just broke out “of their own volition.”

P.J. Clerihew, the boy’s grandfather, issued a statement to the New York Sun.

“It will not bring the boy back, but we believe that exposure of that institution is a public duty. The authorities have been notified of the existing conditions and possible some other unfortunate child may be saved from a like fate when the facts are laid bare.”

This ushered in a full examination of the unhealthy conditions and inadequate staffing at the Kingston Avenue Hospital.

Interested in seeing more photos from CBH’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, or the digital collections portal at Brooklyn Public Library. We look forward to inviting you to CBH in the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our resources page, available here or access the resources of the former Brooklyn Collection here. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected].

1 comment

  • Greg

    Posted on January 26, 2021

    Interesting post! I guess in a sense it "came and went," but it was absorbed into Kings County Hospital in the 50s, which is still on the site.

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