The world-famous Keeley Institute of Dwight Illinois healthcare was a commercial medical facility which offered its secret “Keeley Cure” treatment for alcoholics. It operated from 1879 through 1965, and spawned hundreds of branches across the U.S. and Europe. The institute was founded by Leslie Keeley together with John R. Oughton, a chemist from Ireland, in 1879. The pair made a major discovery for treating alcoholics: injections of a solution of gold chloride; and they founded the Keeley Institute and Keeley Company to promote it. The Keeley Cure involved treating alcoholism as a disease instead of a vice. Keeley’s work was pioneering, and foreshadowed further research which showed that the condition of alcoholism has a physiological nature. Dr. Keeley amassed a large fortune from the institute and the Keeley Cure, from the third of a million patients who received it, including 17,000 alcoholic medical doctors.
The Keeley Cure’s public reputation soared when the Keeley Institute was given positive press coverage in the Chicago Tribune and even, in 1891, in the New York Times. The Keeley Institute grew from Dwight healthcare to encompass more than two hundred branches throughout America and Europe. The Keeley Cure was billed as a scientific treatment for alcoholism. However, Keeley’s decision to keep the formula secret brought heavy criticism from the medical profession, who termed it quackery. By the late nineteen-thirties most of the medical community were of the opinion that alcoholism was a neurosis which couldn’t be cured with injections. The rejection of the medical community, however, did not impair the great popularity of the Keeley Cure and Institute with the general public. The treatment offered by the Keeley Institute has been called pioneering, and also humane. The Institute was designed to be an open, homelike place with an informal environment. Initially the patients boarded at nearby hotels or private homes; and later on they stayed at the the John R. Oughton House. They were free to stroll around the Institute grounds, and also the village streets. They were initially allowed as much liquor as they desired. They were required to receive four daily Keeley Cure shots of gold bichloride. Additionally, patients received individually-prescribed tonics to be taken at intervals of two hours daily. Normal treatment time was four weeks until completion of the Cure.
In 1900 Keeley died in Dwight hospital and the number of patients at the Institute declined. Between 1900 and 1939 only 100,000 people took the Kelley Cure. Oughton and partner Judd reorganized the company after Keeley’s death and kept operating the Institute. However, it diminished into oblivion over the years after Keeley, its energetic spokesman and crusading defender, had died. After John R. Oughton’s death in 1925, his son assumed control of the steadily declining Keeley Institute fortunes. Nonetheless, the Institute celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1939. On that occasion over ten thousand people attended the ceremony, and a plaque was unveiled which was sculpted by Florence Gray, a local student of Lorado Taft. The plaque, which bore the likenesses of Keeley and Oughton and the later partner Judd, was dedicated together with a time capsule. The Keeley Institute finally ceased operations in 1965.
The Keeley Institute and the Keeley Cure for alcoholism were the core of Dwight Illinois healthcare, and Dwight healthcare in turn had a significant impact on the town’s development. After Keeley’s death in Dwight hospital the impetus was lost, and the Institute and Cure went into irreversible decline.