Austin History Center

Sarah Sitton Papers

An Inventory of the Collection

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Sitton, Sarah
Title: Sarah Sitton Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1862-1994
Abstract: Collection consists of research materials Sarah Sitton gathered for her book Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997. Included are copies of original documents such as executive staff meeting minutes, correspondence, patient records, government reports, and other assorted administrative records as well as audio cassettes that contain the interviews that Sitton conducted with people associated with the hospital.
Identification: AR.2000.015
Quantity: .4 linear feet (1 box)
Location: Archives stacks and Oral History cabinet
Language: The records are in English.
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, 810 Guadalupe, PO BOX 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Biographical Note

Sarah Sitton is an Austin, Texas, based author and professor of psychology at St. Edwards University. Sitton first became interested in the history of the Austin State Hospital (formally known as the State Lunatic Asylum) while conducting research for her book Austin's Hyde Park: The First Fifty Years, 1891-1941. The Hyde Park neighborhood is adjacent to the hospital and several people who had grown up in the neighborhood described playing on the grounds of the hospital in the early 1900s. There are also reports of people using the beautifully landscaped grounds for picnics and other outings. As she states in her book, Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997, "the early permeability of the boundaries between hospital and neighborhood...intrigued me."

An offer from the Austin State Hospital's Community Relation department that included access to the hospital's archival materials and a list of potential interviewees motivated Sitton to write about the history of the institution. Sitton uses these archives as well as the memories of staff members, patients and other community members to chronicle 140 years of history at the Austin State Hospital with a focus on the daily life of the patients and the staff. The Austin State Hospital was established as the State Lunatic Asylum by act of the Sixth Legislature in 1856 and began operation in May 1861 with twelve patients. It is the oldest hospital in Texas for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Sitton states that for more than a century the hospital resembled a self-sufficient village and for much of that time, until deinstitutionalization, the self-contained world of the asylum was largely unchanged.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of materials gathered by Sarah Sitton while researching for her book Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997. Most of the early hospital records such as staff meeting minutes (1958-1960), patient records (1862-1873), superintendent correspondence (1910-1915, 1955), training program documents (undated) and other assorted administrative files (1915-1964, 1982, undated) are copies of original materials found in the Hospital's archive. Also included are government reports from the mid-1900s, publications that feature the Hospital (1953, 1975, 1987, undated) and various histories of the Hospital gathered by Sitton. Of special interest are the oral histories that Sitton conducted with patients, people with childhood memories of the hospital and a few former patients in the mid-1990s.


Arranged into 3 series:
I. Hospital Records
II. Printed Materials
III. Oral Histories


Restrictions on Access

Open to all users

Restrictions on Use


Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Ash, Charles Standifer.
Brownlow, Lewis.
DeMoll, Lewis.
Gooding, Pat.
Howard, Ruth.
Howell, Don.
Lassiter, James, Dr.
McCord, Bess.
Otting, Phillip.
Pearce, Joe.
Pearce, Sue.
Roberson, Lolita.
Schultz, Otto.
Sitton, Sarah.
Smith, Bert Kruger.
Watkins, Harvey.
Worley, Mary Hopkins.
Worley, Robert.
Austin State Hospital (Austin, Tex.)--History.
Texas State Lunatic Asylum (Austin, Tex.)--History.
Austin (Tex.)
Mental health--Texas-Austin.
Psychiatric hospital care--Texas--History.

Related Material

General Collection

A 362.2109764 SI Life at the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1997

A 362.210976 BR Brownson, Chris. From Curer to Custodian : a History of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, 1857-1880.

A 362.2 TEB By-laws, Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, Austin.

A 362.210976 Annual Reports of the Board of Managers and Superintendent of the State Lunatic Asylum. Various years 1866-1916.

Austin Files

AF Subject - Texas State Hospital-Austin T5200

Oral Histories

Sitton conducted oral history interviews with Hyde Park residents in the early 1990s and there are references to the State Hospital in some of these interviews. These interviews can be found in the Austin History Center's Oral History Collection.

Separated Material

Austin State Hospital Annual Reports for 1964-1965, 1965-1966 and 1966-1967 moved to General Collection.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Sarah Sitton Papers (AR.2000.015). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/1991/050

Donation Date: 1999

Processing Information

Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults/2010.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Hospital Records, 1862-1982, undated

Box Folder
1 1 Assorted administrative files, 1915-1964, 1982, undated
2-3 Executive stat meeting minutes, 1958-1959
4 Government reports, 1943-1950, 1970-1976, undated
5 Patient records, 1862-1873
6 Superintendent correspondence, 1910-1915, 1955
7 Training program, undated

II. Printed Materials, 1953-1987, undated

Box Folder
1 8 History, 1985-1986, undated
9 Publications, 1953, 1975, 1987, undated
10 Reports, circa 1965

III. Oral Histories, 1994-1995

Note: See the General Tape List database for tape numbers for specific interviewees.
Box Folder
1 11 Oral history project releases, 1994-1995
Location TapeNo
Oral History cabinet 2173-2194 Oral history audio cassettes, 1994-1995