Herbert J. Hall, MD

Image from Occupational Therapy in Health Care, Volume 19(3) 2005 by Susan Hall Anthony, MALS

Herbert James Hall was born on March 12, 1870 in Manchester, New Hampshire.   He graduated from high school in Manchester in 1889.  He may have carried out some undergraduate studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.


He attended Harvard Medical School and graduated with an MD degree in 1895.  He then served as a house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Boston Childrens Hospital.

On December 29, 1897 Dr Hall married Eliza Pitman Goldthwait.  They had two children, Katherine Hall and Marshall G. Hall.  In 1897 he established a medical practice in Marblehead, Massachusetts  and was appointed a fellow of the Massachusetts  Medical Society.


As his practice developed he became interested in the problems of patients with “nervous disorders.”   One would suspect that these patients, who initially were all female, today would be classified as having depression.   Dr Hall came to believe that such patients could gain esteem and regain their health through productive work.   He felt that suitable manual work would have a “normalizing effect.”  He called this a “work cure.”  Hall prescribed the work cure as a medicine to regulate life and interests.

In 1904 Dr. Hall opened his therapeutic handicraft shops in Marblehead, MA.   Among the crafts promoted were hand weaving, woodcarving, metalwork, and pottery.   He believed that these crafts had universal appeal. He recruited experienced craftspeople to assist in the instruction and the supervision  of his patients as they learned the various craft techniques. Initially the pottery program was part of a handicraft therapy program. Soon after it began, the pottery program was separated from the Sanitarium and Arthur Baggs was made its director.   Patients were no longer expected to produce pottery.   Other crafts were encouraged including cement crafts.

In 1905 and again in 1909 Hall received a $1000 grant from Harvard “to assist in the study of the treatment of neurasthenia by progressive and graded manual occupation.”

Dr. Hall published an article in Keramic Studio in 1909 that discussed the details of the pottery program.  


In 1912 the Handicraft program was moved to the Devereaux Mansion, a property owned or overseen by Mrs. Hall’s brother, Dr. Joel Ernest Goldthwait.  Dr. Goldthwait (1966-1961) had founded the Orthopaedic Service at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1899 and served as the first Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at Mass General until 1909.

Hall later wrote extensively in medical journals describing the therapeutic benefit of  work therapy.  In 1915 he authored essays on entitled “The Untroubled Mind.”  In 1916 he authored “Handicrafts for the Handicapped.”  Dr Hall was very involved in developing the field of occupational therapy.  He served as the 4th President of the American Occupational Therapy Association from 1920 to 1922.

Dr. Hall died on February 19, 1923.