Contraband Key

Description (Brief)
A patient at Winnebago State Hospital in Wisconsin made this key from “found” materials. It is one of three owned by the museum from that institution. Opened in 1873, Winnebago housed people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions. The key was confiscated but the record of it is blank as to its maker, date, or intended purpose. Although the artifact is anonymous, its maker is nonetheless powerfully evident.
Currently not on view
Object Name
key, contraband
date made
Physical Description
wire (overall material)
nails (overall material)
overall: .09 cm x 11 cm x 7.6 cm; 1/16 in x 4 5/16 in x 3 in
overall: 5/8 in x 4 1/8 in x 2 7/8 in; 1.5875 cm x 10.4775 cm x 7.3025 cm
Place Made
United States: Wisconsin, Winnebago
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Health & Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift from the Winnebago Mental Health Institute, through Diane Meschefske

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