“The best charities of any city are those that are fed by the heart throbs of its citizens.”
A SHIP. A MISSION. A HISTORY OF RELIEF.
The Floating Hospital is an icon of NYC, a survivor who has seen the city’s highs and lows through the eyes of its undervalued citizens. We remain as relevant now as at the time of our birth as one of the city’s first pediatric charity hospitals. Today, we are one of its last.
The Floating Hospital has thrived through revolutions in healthcare: the discovery of penicillin and aspirin; the invention of typewriters, telephones, cars, and the Internet—even the standardization of time itself occurred on our watch. At a time when electronic health records were more akin to science fiction, The Floating Hospital was using hand-written ship’s logs to record the afflictions of the great masses that flooded our decks—the poor, immigrants and discharged soldiers looking to start new lives.
Then, the primary role of healthcare was relief, through the distribution of milk and the assurance of a monthly bath, both of which were luxuries unavailable to most poor families in the post-Civil War era. Opium, laudanum, and spirits were widely used as remedies. Beer and bread were the basics of many children’s diets.
A million horses, burning coal, and crowded tenements created a lung-damaging stew that doubled as air. For children already stressed by malnutrition and a lack of child labor laws, sea air was one of the few remedies available to combat widespread juvenile asthma. By taking these child laborers and their moms out onto the sea for a day, the Hospital provided a respite, albeit brief, from the miseries of daily life.
The happiest place on earth.
We were a revolutionary concept in the late 1800s, turning the routine occurrence of quarantine barges into a health excursion that combined medical care, healthy eating, and entertainment into one experience. Aboard The Floating Hospital, patients and visitors enjoyed puppet shows, dancing, sing-a-longs, art classes, games, celebrity appearances and movies. They snacked and lunched as they spied breathtaking views of sea and city. No wonder we were nicknamed “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Floating. On land.
Our first land-based hospital was the Seaside Hospital of Staten Island, which tied together sea excursions and a facility for longer-term care and infant deliveries. Improvements in living conditions in the early days of the twentieth century were tempered with better diagnosed maladies, and an understanding of the importance of hygiene, prevention and health education. Modern medicine had arrived, and The Floating Hospital took pride in being at the forefront of all these advances. While we have provided all of our patient services from land-based facilities since the early 2000s, healthcare, relief, and prevention still anchor our mission. For over a century and a half, we have remained steadfast and true to our charitable purpose. We’re here for all who need us.
Visit The Floating Hospital, A Romance at Sea to see and learn more.
*Walter Stanton, Chairman of The Floating Hospital, December 12, 1895