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Hypnotism: Topics in Chronicling America

In the late 19th century, Hypnotism reached the United States bringing with it medical and legal ramifications. This guide provides access to materials related to "Hypnotism" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Hypnotism the greatest blessing of the century says noted Washington physician." May 10, 1908 The Washington Times (Washington, DC), Image 29. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Despite hypnotism’s deep roots in ancient culture, most Americans weren’t even aware of the practice until the late 1800’s. In a matter of a few decades, hypnotism moves from obscurity to becoming a valid medical practice, even serving as a legal defense against murder. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1882-1892Influenced by its popularity in Europe, Americans begin to take an interest in hypnotism.
August 1896Scientists invent a hypnosis machine, built to both perform and measure hypnosis.
1896-1917Usefulness of hypnosis in the medical field becomes a huge debate, with the general consensus being that it’s a medical breakthrough.
1919-1921For the first time ever, the U.S. court considers hypnotism to be a valid defense against criminal prosecution. This ruling creates huge debate in the legal field for the legality of hypnotism.