Photo via the Naval Historical Center.
The Reverend Rufus B. Tobey established the Boston Floating Hospital in 1894.
Tobey had a model in the nation’s first floating hospital, the Emma Abbott, launched from New York City in 1875. Tobey’s original two-deck boat had permanent wards on its lower deck and a day ward above.
The ship met mothers and children at Boston City Wharf and took them out onto the harbor for a break from the summer heat. According to the the 1906 Guidebook of Boston for Physicians:
The poor, sick, air-starved babies feel the strengthening breezes of the bay, color returns, digestion improves with appetite, and on leaving the boat at 5 p.m., mother and infant are equipped with a fresh start against the evil forces of the city’s summer night.