1873 Our State Charities

“The State Board of Charities, of which Dr. Charles Hoyt is the Secretary, and Prof. Theodore W. Dwight the President, has just issued its fifth annual report. The duty of this Board is to inspect the public charities of the State, and make such recommendations to the Legislature as they deem best on their management. Few who have not studied the subject can have an idea of how broad is the field of work of our charities receiving aid from the State. Their property interest alone is enormous, amounting during the past year to $20,450,272 of real estate, and $3,727,602 of personal property. The aid they received from the State Treasury reached the sum of $1,635,558, and from municipalities the large amount of $3,341,762, while their total annual receipts were $7,832,902, and their expenditure $7,259,568. The whole number of persons in these institutions during the year was 92,741; the number temporarily relieved, 98,368; the number receiving outside free medical and surgical aid, 294,364, and the number under gratuitous educational training, 70,339.

In the County Poor-houses alone were, during the year, 18,933, and in the City institutions 39,286 persons. The Houses of Refuge trained and sheltered 5,619 of our youth, the Catholic Protectory containing much the largest number, 2,380. Of idiots, 681 were specially cared for, and of inebriates, 315 in the Binghamton Asylum. The number of deaf and dumb instructed and relieved were 714; of blind, 549;  of insane, 5,073.

The report of Prof. Dwight in regard to the management of our County Poor-houses contains suggestions of the highest value. It is well known that when this Board began its labors, the condition of these misnames houses of charity was shocking in the extreme. There was but little classification; old and young, unfortunate, virtuous girls with abandoned prostitutes, children and hardened ruffians, sand and insane, sick and well, the purely unfortunate and the lazily vicious, were all herded together in one building, and sometimes in the same rooms. The result was that one of the most terrible diseases which can afflict a civilized community began to break out here in our rural districts-hereditary pauperism. The Secretary of the State Board visited one almshouse in Western New-York where four generations of females were prostitutes and paupers. Even at this time, in the Westchester Almshouse, there are two or three generations of paupers. The treatment of the insane and the blind or deaf or sick in these institutions was simply atrocious. The first great step of reform in the State was the classification of the insane, and the withdrawal of large numbers from the County Poor-houses and the placing them in the State Willard Asylum, on Seneca Lake.

Still another important measure was the separation of the pauper children in Broome County and several adjoining counties from the almshouses, and placing them in an institution near Binghamton, called the “Susquehanna Valley Home.” This wise measure, however, should at once be imitated in all parts of the State. A poor-house is no place for children. They catch the bad habits of the institution, and they grow up lazy and dependent. They are paupers even in childhood. The taint of an almshouse rest on them all their days. Of girls, it is well known that they are often corrupted in these places before they go forth in life. There is no excuse in this country for retaining a single child in a poor-house. The demand everywhere for children’s labor is beyond all supply, and thousands of homes are open to shelter and instruct such unfortunate children. Before the Randall’s Island Nursery was so exclusively under Roman Catholic influence, the Commissioners of Charities used to send forth each year hundreds of their little waifs, under the charge of the Children’s Aid Society, to homes in the West, where many have grown up as prosperous farmers. All our almshouses could easily thus dispose of their children, if of sound mind and body. Indeed, the report of the “State Charities Visiting Society“-alluded to very favorably in Prof. Dwight’s report-states that the Children’s Aid Society had offered to the Westchester County Poor-house where are housed some sixty pauper children-to send them all to homes without expense.

The only place for a pauper child is a family. Even the Binghamton Home would fail of its great object if it retained the children during any long period. We trust that an act will pass during this session of the Legislature, requiring the Superintendents of the Poor in the various counties to place their pauper children in intermediate houses, like the Susquehanna Valley Home, which institutions shall be under State and private management. Every five counties should be allowed a “Children’s Home,” and the counties need not be required to pay any more for the support of the children than they do now. Then each Home should be required to place out very carefully every sound pauper child after a six months’ residence. Prof. Dwight also recommends, very wisely, the establishment of “industrial almshouses.” Our county poor-houses are full now of able-bodied paupers. Each Winter they sail in there for harbor. They ought to be made to support themselves. As it is now, the county paupers of the State only pay one-fifth of their cost, or about $32,342. If State work-houses were established these county able-bodied paupers could be separated, classified, and made to earn their living. Then the county houses could be limited to the sick, aged, and helpless. All that considerable class, moreover, who commit minor offenses, and are put for short periods in county jails, ought to be placed where they would support themselves, and at the same time learn some useful branch of industry.

At present these petty criminals spend their time in complete idleness in the county jails, and go out worse than they entered. To improve this class there should be a separate department in the State work-houses proposed, and the criminal statutes should be changed, so that the magistrates could commit them to these, and for longer terms than is at present the custom. We trust that the present Legislature will enlarge the authority of this Board, and enable it to go on with the great reforms which it has inaugurated.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: January 14, 1873, Copyright @ The New York Times.


1883 Places To Increase Insanity

A Report Read At The State Charities Aid Association.

The State Charities Aid Association met yesterday afternoon at No. 6 East Fourteenth street. Mr. Charles S. Fairchild presided. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President – Charles S. Fairchild; Vice-President – Mrs. William B. Rice; Treasurer – Charles Russell Hone; Librarian – Miss A.H. Woolsey; Board of Managers – John Jay, Mrs. d’Oremieulx, Judge Henry E. Howland, Mrs. Lydia M. Hoyt, John A. McKim, Miss Grace H. Dodge, Frederick N. Owen, Miss Emily Tuckerman, James H. Fay, Miss Rosalie Butler, Miss Emily Hoppin. The Treasurer reported that the expenses of the association for the year ending Nov. 30, 1883, were $5,176.24, and the receipts $4,946.97.

The Secretary’s report was a lengthy document, embracing a history of the work of 44 local visiting committees, in addition to the standing committees and the New-York County Visiting Committee, with its branches. The subject of the treatment of the insane in poor-houses and in the County asylums was treated at length, and descriptions were given of the asylums and poor-houses visited in different counties. The report dwelt upon the desirability of doing away with the local institutions for the insane, which were described as rather calculated for the encouragement of insanity and misery generally than for their suppression. In the visitations of the association to the County asylums and poor-houses a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs from the moral and hygienic point of view was found to exist. Lunatics who, perhaps, might be cured or improved with proper care in State hospitals were found cooped up in close cells like ox-stalls, as in Chenango County, or chained to strong iron rings in the wall of the yard, like wild animals, as in Genesee – the lack of suitable care-takers making this recourse to restraint necessary. In Broome County the bath-room was found in the coal-cellar – six patients bathing in the same water, which was then saved to wash the clothes in the laundry. As a general rule the insane in county poor-houses were kept in attics, basements, and out buildings filthy and squalid. In Niagara County, the Secretary found insane patients shoeless, bareheaded, compelled to sit on the floor, and all, both men and women, under charge of a male pauper. The report recommends that poor-house insane wards and county asylums be abolished, and that all classes of insane be cared for by the State, in cottages of moderate coast on the vacant lands of the six present State institutions. The report also recommends the opening of training schools for nurses in insane hospitals.

The poor-house buildings in Tioga County are described as old and uncomfortable. There is lack of hospital accommodation for the sick and of bathing conveniences. The poor-house in Chenango County presented a sad spectacle of disease, depravity, and insanity. There were many distressing cases of suffering and misery. It is said that this poor-house contains a larger number of inmates who are mentally and physically diseased than any other in the State. In Fulton County the paupers are improperly provided for. Men and women, sick and well, sane and insane, were herded together like animals. The sick have no special care taken of them. The Genesee County Poor-house building is described as a pestilence-breeding place.”

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published: December 14, 1883, Copyright @ The New York Times.