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"Detention castles of stone and steel": An historical archaeology of the first Rhode Island State Prison, 1838--1878

James Curtis Garman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Punishment and the proper means of rehabilitating and reforming criminals stand at the forefront of public concern in American society. This dissertation examines the historical precedents of the modern debate over imprisonment by considering power, work, and the manner in which they were negotiated within the world of the nineteenth-century reform institution. The primary case study derives from historical archaeological investigations of Rhode Island's first State Prison in Providence. Constructed in 1838, the prison was enlarged and rebuilt in several phases before its abandonment in 1877 and its demolition in 1893. Other case studies include the Smithfield (Rhode Island) Town Farm and Asylum (1834–1870), established to meet the local need for poor relief, and the various orphanages, asylums, and juvenile reform structures at the State Farm in Howard, Rhode Island. Archaeological and architectural analyses of these complexes address different aspects of the questions raised in this dissertation about the relationship between landscape, labor, and power in the milieu of industrial capitalism.

Subject Area

Archaeology|American studies|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Garman, James Curtis, ""Detention castles of stone and steel": An historical archaeology of the first Rhode Island State Prison, 1838--1878" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9950155.