Philadelphia General Hospital’s School of Nursing brought a new level of professionalism to nursing. The hospital was founded as the Philadelphia Almshouse in 1731 to serve the indigent and mentally ill. Originally built in Center City, it moved to a much larger campus in Blockley Township (now the University City section of West Philadelphia) in 1831. “Old Blockley” soon became notorious for filthy and overcrowded conditions. The hospital began a series of reforms in the 1880s to improve patient care and restore its reputation.
One such reform was the establishment of a School of Nursing. It was founded by Alice Fisher, a nurse who had been trained by Florence Nightingale. Prior to its founding in 1885, much of the nursing staff at Philadelphia General Hospital was drawn from the recovering patient population. This 1949 photograph shows a class of senior nursing students in uniforms attending a lecture at the school. In 1920, the “lunatic” population was moved to Byberry State Hospital, and the facility began to operate as a modern, conventional hospital, but continued to serve the poor community. It was closed in 1977.