1884 - 1965
Place of birth: Brooklyn, NY
Date of Willard admission: 1930
Length of stay: 35 years
A Photographic Eye
Mr. Herman #20894 had his first seizure in 1902 at age 18, perhaps as the result of surgery he underwent at age four. Diagnosed with epilepsy, he was sent from his Brooklyn home to the new "Craig Colony" in rural upstate New York in 1908. The Colony was the State's first attempt to understand and care for people with epilepsy. Photography was an important tool in that research and, within a few years, Herman was closely assisting the Colony's photography staff. By 1915 he was working as a photographer in his own right, taking pictures of staff and his fellow patients, and was well regarded for his skills. At the same time, he was described as a "model patient" and was largely free of seizures.
"No Place To Go"
By 1930, having spent most of his adult life institutionalized, Herman was described in his file as being depressed and uncommunicative. He was admitted to Willard, despite the examining physician's statement that "no reason could be found for this patient being at a state institution for the insane."
Herman stayed at Willard for 35 years, but never again worked as a photographer. He was one of many Willard patients transferred for several years to the Sampson Division, a short distance away, to help relieve overcrowding at the main facility. His records state again and again that he was indifferent and generally disinterested, though well-behaved and willing to help on the wards when asked. Apparently, he had no more seizures. When Mr. Herman was in his seventies, he was offered the opportunity to leave Willard: "Where would I go?" he answered. "No place to go." He stayed there until he died in November 1965. His family had his body returned to Brooklyn, where he was buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery.