Historic Boston Harbor Islands Photographs

One of the great things about the Internet for any history buff is the ability to access photographs and historical resources that were once buried deep inside archives and libraries. Case in point are the fantastic vintage photographs that the Boston Public Library posts on Flickr. The recent release of baseball photographs taken by Leslie Jones received considerable press, and deservedly so. (Check out this incredible shot of a Cubs player sliding into home at Braves Field.) But I was just as excited to see the recently posted vintage photographs of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Check out this photograph taken on Long Island sometime around 1930. It shows the contestants of the annual baby crib race down Long Island Head at the starting line. Gentlemen, start your cradles!

OK, just kidding. It’s a photograph of some of the children who were being cared for at Long Island Hospital along with some of the nurses out getting some fresh air.

The cool breezes and the open air of the islands were thought to have salubrious properties. Thus, the Boston Harbor Islands were a place of healing for generations of sick children from Boston. In addition to the hospital on Long Island, the Burrage Hospital on Bumpkin Island provided care and treatment for poor children with physical disabilities between 1902 and the start of World War I. And if you’ve always been confused as to why the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center is fully landlocked, well, it’s because that it dates back to the days when it actually did sail on Boston Harbor. For 33 years starting in 1894, the Floating Hospital sailed the harbor so that its patients could benefit from its supposedly healing breezes.

(Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library)

  2 Replies to “Historic Boston Harbor Islands Photographs”

  1. Tim
    May 24, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Chris – Great story and very accurate! Thanks for sharing. We have tons of pictures, in fact in my office, which is in the old Boston Dispensary Building. I have posted some of these pictures on our Floating Hospital Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/floatinghospitalforchildrenattuftsmc

    Here’s come more interesting facts:
    The Floating ship sailed Boston Harbor for the first time in 1894. Heralded as a major innovation in pediatric medicine, the mission of the hospital ship was top take ill urban children out into the Harbor to experience the healing qualities of fresh sea air and sunshine. The Rev Rufus Tobey, a kind-hearted Congregational Minister, raised funds from generous Bostonians to lease a ship that sailed Boston Harbhor and brought physicians and nurses together with sick children and their mothers. By the end of the first summer 1,100 children were treated. For 33 years, the Floating Hospital was located on two successive vessels helping children and educating mothers about dysentery and other important health issues. The second Floating ship was equipped with laboratory space and an inpatient unit. Two major advancements made onbaord were the development of a human milk bank to supply breast milk to sick infants, and the creation of the first effective synthetic milk product for infants, still sold world-wide today as Similac.

  2. May 25, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Tim, Thanks for the additional information! Those old photos are fantastic. Chris

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