The Meteor

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The Meteor was a newspaper written, edited, printed and published by patients at the Alabama Insane Hospital in Tuscaloosa in the 1870s and 1880s. It was the third such newspaper to be produced in an American asylum, following an 1840s publication from the Vermont Asylum for the Insane in Brattleboro and and 1850s paper produced at the Utica State Lunatic Asylum in New York.

The paper was named for the astronomical phenomenon which arrives without warning and disappears after a short but brilliant career. Its motto, "lucus a non lucendo" (literally "a dark grove by not being light"), indicates a non-sequitur or nonsense phrase. The first edition was dated July 4, 1872, and, for five years it appeared quarterly. In the late 1870s and early 1880s the publication schedule was more irregular.

The paper, composed on a hand-operated quarto-size press, was originally intended by hospital superintendent Peter Bryce as a means of giving patients a productive activity that would also serve to acquaint newcomers to the practices of the institution. Its mission quickly expanded to publicize accounts of the hospital to a broader public, including the regional press and state officials. The Meteor has been recognized for its erudition and wit. Researcher Ryan Phillips has tentatively identified the editor-in-chief as Joseph Goree.

The editors of the Birmingham Iron Age endorsed the paper in an 1875 notice, saying that, "it is not more irrational than other papers whose editors do not profess insanity."


  • Rieff, Burt (April 1999) "The Meteor: The 'Remarkable Enterprise' at the Alabama Insane Hospital, 1872-1881." The Alabama Review Vol. 52, No. 2
  • Phillips, John Ryan (2014) "A Newspaper Experiment: The Alabama Insane Hospital’s Patient-Run Publication, The Meteor, and its Editor." unpublished master's thesis. University of Alabama.
  • Romm, Cari (November 13, 2015) "A Newspaper Written Entirely by Mental-Health Patients" The Atlantic

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