1880s The settlement house concept begins in England
1889 Hull House, Chicago, IL, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates
Starr, provides community services and recreation to the poor.
1892 Dr. Adolf Meyer, a psychiatrist, reported that "the proper
use of time in some helpful and gratifying activity appeared
to be a fundamental issue in the treatment of the neuropsychiatric
patient." He is known for the concept of psychobiology.
Rush Dunton, Jr., "Father of Occupational Therapy,"
staff psychiatrist at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Asylum in Baltimore
(SEPA). He fitted a metalworking shop for the treatment of patients.
He went on to become editor of "Occupational Therapy and
Rehabilitation," and an instructor in psychiatry at Johns
Hopkins University, and a President of the AOTA.
1895 Mary Potter Brooks Meyer, (Meyer's wife), a social worker, introduced
a systematic type of activity into the wards of a state institution
in Worcester, Massachusetts. She was also the first social worker
to provide a systematic program to help patients, their families,
and the physician.
Lawrason Brown used occupation therapy to "harden"
tuberculosis patients at Trudeau Sanatorium.
1904 Dr. Herbert J. Hall began to prescribe occupation for his patients
as medicine to regulate life and direct interest. He called
this the "work cure."
1905 Susan E. Tracy, considered the first Occupational Therapist,
noticed in her training as a nurse the benefits of occupation
in relieving nervous tension and making bedrest more tolerable
for patients. Tracy believed that wholesome interests could
be substituted for morbid ones and could carry over into the
patient's life after discharge from the hospital.
1906 National Recreation Association founded
1906 Hall received a $1,000 grant from Harvard to "assist in
the study of the treatment of neurasthenia by progressive and
graded manual occupation." He established a workshop in
Marblehead, MA, where he used, as a treatment, the crafts of
handweaving, woodcarving, metalwork, and pottery "because
of their universal appeal and the normalizing effect of suitable
1906 Tracy, as director of the Training School for Nurses at the
Adams Nervine Asylum in Boston, developed the first systematic
training course in occupation to prepare instructors for teaching
patient activities. She also cautioned that a variety in activity
choices must be great in order to meet individual patient requirements.
1908 A. M. Forster opened Eudwood Farm in Towson, MD. The International
Congress on TB awarded him their Gold Medal for progressive
treatment of tuberculosis patients using activity therapy. He
based his work on American philosopher William James' "Tough
1908 Dunton adds other crafts, and an instructor is engaged to teach
patients at SEPA.
1908 Hall began a "work as treatment" training program
for young women at Devereaux Mansion in Marblehead, MA,
1908 Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy is established at
Hull House. Graham Taylor was director of the school, that among
others, had classes in occupations and amusements for attendants
in public hospitals for the insane. Jane Addams, the director
of Hull House, along with Julia Lathrop and Taylor, influenced
the development of a number of courses to meet the needs of
the community. Attendants learned games, arts, crafts, and hobbies
which they could use to "reach" their patients. Dr.
Adolf Meyer (a psychiatrist at Kankakee State Hospital) worked
with Addams and Lathrop and supported their work for the improvement
of the care of the mentally ill in state hospitals in Illinois.
Lathrop believed that "occupational treatment was to have
a large future in hospital treatment and that this service should
be carried on by persons specifically educated for it."
1909 The Society for Mental Hygiene established an occupational department,
after recognizing that many persons referred to them needed
occupation for therapeutic, economic, and diversional reasons.
A workshop was started as an experiment. Follow-up data on clients
served, showed the experiment to be so successful that staff
members advocated its use with other disabilities. The need
for instruction of aides led to the creation of the Henry B.
Favill School of Occupations in 1915.
1909 Recreation therapy - a type of psychotherapy - plays an important role in the management of functional neuroses. It is not enough to tell a patient to take a daily walk or to go to the theater. Ascertain what he enjoys. Fortunate is the psychopath who enjoys hunting or fishing; or, still better, the ocean or the mountains. The ceaseless lashing of the sea has a wonderfully calming effect upon the emotions; the inspiring grandeur of the mountains is also quieting and lifts one to higher mental levels. Journal of the Indiana State Medical Association - 1909,
The Psychic Element in the Causation and Cure of Disease,
By Frank B. Wynn, MD, Indianapolis, December 15, 1909, page 520
1910 Reba G. Cameron, Taunton State Hospital
1910 Eleanor Clark Slagle, a social work student at the Chicago School
of Civics and Philanthropy, enrolled in Lathrop's first course
in "curative occupations and recreations" because
of her concern about the detrimental effects of idleness on
the patients at Kankakee State Hospital.
1910 Tracy wrote the first book on occupations, "Studies in
Invalid Occupations-A Manual for Nurses and Attendants."
This was a compilation of Tracy's lectures with an illustrated
guide for the use of activities with patients. Primarily a craft
book, it also gave methods of teaching and explaining the rationale
for the use of specific activities for many patient diagnoses
in different types of settings. In her book Tracy describes
her concept of occupation by using a quote from John Dewey:
"By occupation is not meant any kind of 'busy work' or
exercise that may be given to a child to keep him out of mischief
or idleness when seated at his desk. By occupation I mean a
mode of activity on the part of the child which reproduces or
runs parallel to some form of work carried on in the social
life...The fundamental point of the psychology of an occupation
is that it maintains a balance between the intellectual and
the practical phases of experience.
1911 After studying Tracy's book on invalid occupations, Dunton taught
a series of classes on "occupation and recreation"
for nurses at SEPA.
1911 Following her graduation from Lathrop's course, Slagle conducted
a similar course at the State Hospital in Newberry, MI. She
then went on to Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Johns Hopkins Hospital
in Baltimore under Meyer where she was the director of the "Occupational
Therapy Department," and conducted classes for nurses in
"handiwork for the dispensary patients." (Dispensary
former term for clinic: a department in a hospital where a person
not requiring hospitalization would receive medical care.)
1911 Tracy conducted the first course in occupation at a general
hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital Training School for
Psychiatric Quarterly, edited by Dunton from its inception,
published articles relating to occupations and amusements. Became
the official organ of the NSPOT when founded in 1917.
1912 Dunton is placed in charge of the "occupations and recreation
program" at SEPA.
1914 WWI Begins in Europe
1914 George Edward Barton coins the term "Occupational Therapy"
at a meeting in Boston of hospital workers and the Massachusetts
State Board of Insanity. It had been formerly known by many
titles such as moral treatment, work treatment, work therapy,
occupation treatment, occupation reeducation, and ergotherapy.
Barton, an architect became an advocate after a personal experience
with treatment of illness. Consequently he organized an institution
called Consolation House in Clifton Springs, New York. Barton
described the purpose of occupational therapy as "to divert
the patient's mind, to exercise some particular set of muscles
or a limb, or perhaps merely to relieve the tedium of convalescence."
He felt that the fundamental principle upon which occupational
therapy rested was "not the making of an object but the
making of a man." He defined occupational therapy as "the
science of instructing and encouraging the sick in such labours
as will involve those energies and activities producing a beneficial
1914 Tracy, as Director of the Experiment Station for the Study of
Invalid Occupations, Jamaica Plains, MA, wrote a flier describing
the occupation course offered. The flier states that: "Each
patient is considered in light of his threefold personality-body,
mind, and spirit. The aim was to improve the patients physical,
educational, and financial well-being. The method was based
on three principles: The realization of resources, the ability
to initiate activities, and the participation in such activities
of both sick and well subjects.
Tomahawk State Camp, WI uses the hardening, activity therapy
for its TB patients.
1915 Dunton wrote the first complete textbook on occupational therapy,
"Occupational Therapy-A Manual for Nurses." In it
Dunton outlines the basic tenets, saying that the primary purpose
is "to divert the patient's attention from unpleasant subjects,
to keep the patient's train of thought in more healthy channels,
to control attention, to secure rest, to train in mental processes
by educating hand, eyes, muscles, etc., serve as a safety valve,
to provide a new vocation." The largest part of the book
deals with simple activities that the nurse could use or adapt
to the treatment of patients.
Clark Slagle (a graduate of the Chicago School of Civics and
Philanthropy) organized the first professional school for occupational
therapists, the Henry B. Favill School of Occupations, in Chicago.
She served as director from 1915 to 1920. Included in the program
were craft activities and preindustrial and vocational work
as well as games, folk dancing, gymnastics, and playground activities.
The program attempted to create a balance of work, rest, and
play for mentally ill patients. The school closed, as many did
after the end of Worl War I.
published "The Work of Our Hands-A Study of Occupations
for Invalids." He divided invalid occupation into "diversional"
occupation for those patients who were incurable, and "remedial"
occupation for those patients for whom there was therapeutic
and economic value in remedial work.
1917 The US enters WWI, which ended in 1918. The official period
of medical emergency was from April 16, 1917 to July 2, 1921.
1917 The Surgeon General's Office forms the Division of Special Hospitals
and Physical Reconstruction, employing 2,000 "reconstruction
aides" to fill the need for health professionals to rehabilitate
the wounded. Practicing in army hospitals, and later in veteran's
hospitals, reconstruction aides helped to restore the wounded
through the use of indoor and outdoor games, active exercises,
passive exercises in the form of massage, muscle reeducation,
and hydro, electro, and mechanotherapy .
1917 During a meeting held at Consolation House, the National Society
for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT) formed, incorporated,
and chartered under the laws of the District of Columbia. Charter
members were George E. Barton, Eleanor Clark Slagle, Dr. William
Rush Dunton, Jr., Susan C. Johnson (occupational therapist at
Montefiore Hospital in New York), Isabel G. Newton (Barton's
secretary), and Thomas B. Kidner (vocational secretary of the
Military Hospital Commission of Canada). Susan B. Tracy, unable
to attend, was elected as an active member and incorporator
of the society. Barton became the first president.
1917 NSPOT has its first annual meeting in New York. The theme of
presentations were centered on the theme "The Reconstruction
of the Mentally and Physically Disabled." Vocational education
is proposed by Dunton. Dunton is elected president, a post he
held for two years. The Maryland Psychiatric Quarterly becomes
their official publishing organ.
1918 The first reconstruction aides go to La Fauche, France, to serve
at Base Hospital 117 near the front lines. The Red Cross issued
their uniforms (gray coat-suit) and supplies, although they
were not a part of that organization. To supplement the supplies,
the aides raided trash heaps for metal and wood for the workshop
The unit leader, Mrs. Clyde McDowell Meyers, reflected in the
AJOT, 2, 211-212, that "nobody was forced to do anything.
That was the principle of the shop. The work was to attract
and interest the men and they, through it, were to be drawn
back to the normal, away from the horrors that had shaken and
broken them; the opportunity for creative self-expression, self-forgetfulness,
and then health... To stimulate their interest and make them
forget was our object in all the work."
1918 The St. Louis School for Reconstruction Aides opens. It was
the first school west of the Mississippi River and remains with
Tufts, as one of the only original programs still operating.
1918 The Menninger Clinic opens.
Medical Department Bulletin a-329 outlines qualifications and
job description for reconstruction aides, as "civilian
employees whose province is to teach various forms of simple
hand craft to patients in military hospitals and other sanitary
formations of the Army, especially to those patients in the
orthopedic and surgical wards as well as to the patients suffering
from nervous or mental diseases." An undated War Department
memorandum authorized a metal "R.A." 1/2 inch in height
to be worn on the collar.
1918 Mrs. Howard Mansfield, chair of the committee on War Service
Classes, established training for forty-two reconstruction aides
at the Lennox School in NY, with the goal of "proving the
therapeutic value of activity to our convalescent soldiers and
sailors both here and abroad."
1918 First National Recreation Congress is held.
1918-1919 Red Cross publishes "Carry On-a Magazine on the Reconstruction
of Disabled Soldiers and Sailors" references to occupational
therapy are consistent and positive.
1918 Dunton, at the second annual NSPOT meeting, delivered nine cardinal
rules to guide practice. They were expanded by a committee of
therapist to fifteen. Out of these principles came the first
universal definition of occupational therapy: "A method
of treatment by means of instruction and employment in productive
occupation." The objectives were "To arouse interest,
courage and confidence; to exercise the mind and body in healthy
activities; to overcome functional disability; and to re-establish
a capacity for industrial and social usefulness."
wrote "Reconstruction Therapy." It includes the first
That occupation is as necessary to life as food and drink. That
every human being should have both physical and mental occupation.
That all should have occupations which they enjoy, or hobbies.
These are the more necessary when the vocation is dull or distasteful.
Every individual should have at least two hobbies, one outdoor
and one indoor. A greater number will create wider interests,
a broader intelligence.
That sick minds, bodies, and souls may be healed through occupation.
1919 The St. Louis School for Reconstruction Aides, changed its name
to the St. Louis School of Occupational Therapy.
Two programs were offered: a three-year diploma course, and
a four-year course leading to a B.S. degree in education granted
by Washington University through University College.
Sidney Schwab, medical director of Base Hospital 117, speaks
enthusiastically of occupational therapy: "A method of
treatment that can meet its purpose so surely and definitely
as this did would seem to have something of the adaptability
of a proven thing, and must be regarded a definite part of the
1920 The National Association of Ex-Military Reconstruction Aides
is formed. They publish a quarterly magazine titled; "Re-Aides'
1920 Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 2 JUN 1920 (PL113)
1922 First issue of the "Archives of Occupational Therapy"
(becomes the official organ of the NSPOT, then the AOTA when
founded in 1923), in it Meyer's philosophy of occupational therapy
is published. He states, "Our conception of man is that
of an organism that maintains and balances itself in the world
of reality and actuality by being in active life and active
use, i.e. using and living and acting its time in harmony with
its own nature and the nature about it. It is the use that we
make of ourselves that gives the ultimate stamp to our every
organ." He further describes the rhythms of life that must
be kept in balance even under difficulty as, work, play, rest,
and sleep. Meyer felt that the treatment of the mentally ill
must be a blending of work and pleasure that included both recreation
and productive activity.
1922-1955 Dr. John Eisele Davis Chief of Corrective Therapy, Physical
Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, Veterans Administration
Hospital, Perry Point, MD. Founder of the Association of Physical
and Mental Rehabilitation, an affiliate of AAHPER. Fellow of
the American Physical Education Association.
1923 The NSPOT changes its name to the American Occupational Therapy
Association (AOTA) (Archives of Occupational Therapy official
1925 Archives of Occupational Therapy changes name to Occupational
Therapy and Rehabilitation (still official organ of AOTA, until
1926 Recreation Act of 1926-43ss 869-869-3
1926 Potts Memorial Hospital, Livingston, NY uses recreational therapy
writes "Prescribing Occupational Therapy." Reiss.
in 1945 and 1947.
1929 Wall Street crashed
1929 Olive View Sanatorium, CA uses activity therapy
1932 The Menninger Clinic begins "attitude therapy"
1933 Davis begins working for the VAMC in corrective therapy (retires
in 1955)(credited with founding the Association of Physical
and Medical Rehabilitation)
1934 The Works Progress Administration-Recreation Division funds
recreation leaders at institutions.
1934 In order to meet growing demands in the professional field and because increased opportunities were available through the cooperation of Washington University, courses in recreation and group work were included in the curricular requirements. The name of the school was changed to the St. Louis School of Occupational and Recreational Therapy.
Security Act establishes a federal program of old-age insurance.
1935 Davis publishes "Recreational Therapy, Play and Mental
1936 Edward Livingston Trudeau's Saranac Lake, NY, Dr. Blanchet founded
the Study and Craft Guild for the treatment of patients.
1936 Davis and Dunton collaborate to publish "Principles and
Practice of Recreational Therapy" the forward is written
by Adolf Meyer, May 3, 1933. Recreational therapy is defined
as "any free, voluntary and expressive activity; motor,
sensory or mental, vitalized by the expansive play spirit, sustained
by deep-rooted pleasurable attitudes and evoked by wholesome
emotional release; prescribed by medical authority as an adjuvant
Congress continues funding VAMCs for recreational articles and
facilities at institutions.
1938 American Association for Health and Physical Education, adds
Recreation to the name, becomes AAHPER
1938 Davis publishes "Recreational Therapy, Play and Mental
1938 The St. Louis School of Recreational and Occupational Therapy's
curriculum was evaluated and approved by the AMA. The program
currently only offers advanced degrees, and is a school of the
Washington University Medical School, reporting directly to
the Dean of Medicine.
1939 "Occupational Therapy-A New Profession" Occupations,
The Vocational Guidance Magazine, 17:293-298, Jan., 1939, describes
AMA approved occupational therapy curriculum with recreational
therapy as one of three branches of OT specialization.
193? St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, DC starts recreation service