Boston’s Original Floating Hospital

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.


2 thoughts on “Boston’s Original Floating Hospital

  1. Working on my family’s genealogy. One of my ancestors daughter’s died August 9, 1899, Boston, floating hospital. She was 11 months old. Had to know what that was, and my investigating led me here. Thank you.

    • Helen — thanks for sharing. Let me know if you find out more — maybe you can guest-post as a follow up to this one, a more personal story.

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