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© McCord Museum
Ward, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC, 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
1894, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Life in some hospitals was relatively unregimented until the 1880s. Patients were not restricted to eating at mealtimes, and the alcoholic beverages used as stimulants were not always rationed. Even the nurses occasionally over-imbibed in the wine. One nurse at the Montreal General was fired for drunkenness.

Visits were permitted freely, and people prayed aloud in the wards and corridors. In Hospitaller-run institutions, the rules were strict but not strictly observed.

In the late 19th century, the medicalization of care led to more rigorous patient regimes. Alcohol was rationed, diets were imposed, snacks were eliminated and visits were limited. As for the nightshift staff, tea replaced beer. Silence, courtesy and compliance with the prescribed treatments became mandatory, with misconduct punishable by firing.


The hospitalization conditions for ward patients are well illustrated in this photo. The iron beds were arranged two by two between the large windows that afforded good lighting.


The traditional rocking chairs sat along the centre aisle, near the hot water radiators.


Shortly after it opened, the Royal Victoria Hospital began adopting specialized medicine. In 1904, it added a neurology department, which was followed in 1905 by the dermatology and pediatrics departments.


The medical board played an important role in managing patient care at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Composed of physicians for the most part, the board controlled equipment purchases and medical staff hiring.

© Musée McCord Museum