Mont Alto, Pennsylvania: Mont Alto State Sanitorium, 1910. Envelope or Cover. This postcard is franked with a one-cent green Franklin stamp (Scott #331), which has been canceled with a duplex “Mont Alto / PA” postmark. It bears an exceptionally nice, bold “DISINFECTED.” magenta handstamp (Sandrick Type 1) under the address. In nice shape. In this card, Jake reports that since his admission to the sanatorium he has received “67 cards . . . 23 this month” and is feeling “about the same”. Very good. Item #009730
After Robert Koch proved that tuberculosis was caused by an infectious bacterium, sanatorium treatment (which was based on horizontal bedrest, good nutrition, fresh air, and high-altitude convalescence) took hold in Europe and by 1900 had spread to the United States. "The Pennsylvania State South Mountain Sanatorium for Tuberculosis at Mont Alto" began in 1902 and 1910, it contained over 650 patients who were cared for by a staff of more than 100. It continued to expand until an effective antibiotic for the disease was discovered in 1945. The facility then continued on as a geriatric center and mental health “restoration” facility until it closed in 1985 due to a deteriorating and unmaintainable physical plant. The public was terrified of tuberculosis as not only was it the second leading cause of death (after influenza), but “because it disables and renders useless and helpless, those who have it for a long time before they die, and often beggars their families.” To ally concern, in some sanatoriums patient mail was disinfected before forwarding by using either formaldehyde or fumes from burning sulfur; both methods were used at Mont Alto. Eventually, medical consensus determined that disinfection was unnecessary as the bacteria could not be transmitted via mail, and the practices was discontinued at most facilities. (For more information see “What Everyone Should Know about Tuberculosis” and “Stamping Mail as Disinfected” both in the Journal of the Outdoor Life, January and October, 1910, as well as “Disinfection of Mail in the United States in the Spring 1980 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and Sandrick’s “Disinfection Markings from Pennsylvania” in La Posta, all available online.).