Asylums of New York City 1851

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Orphan Asylum

This humane institution was incorporated April 7, 1807. Like most benevolent institutions, its beginning was on a small scale. The society first commenced their labor of love in a hired  house. Since that time the location has been twice changed. The present edifice and home of the orphan, was completed in 1840, and stands a little back, but in full view of the beautiful Hudson, and on that portion of the island which is called Bloomingdale, being four or five miles from the City Hall.

The lot on which the building stands, embraces nine acres and three-fourths. The edifice is four stories high, including the basement, which is all occupied. The location is pleasant, healthful, and retired. The present number of children is one hundred and fifty-nine.

To see such a company of little ones, without father or mother, well-fed, clothed, sheltered, instructed, and every way cared for, is a sight well calculated to affect the heart. What a blessed work to take up these forsaken, homeless children, and furnish them with a better home and better every thing, than many of their parents ever provided for them. Truly this institution commends itself to the sympathy and aid of the community.

"Orphans are admitted into the Asylum until they attain the age of ten years, if the Board be satisfied that they are proper subjects for this institution. Their guardians or connexions must relinquish all claim to their future disposal." "No child shall leave the Asylum until he has been at least one year under the care of the society, and until he can read, write, cipher," &c._(By Laws, Page 8.)

The boys and girls, when they arrive at suitable age, are bound (on trial) to such persons as the Board shall approve, the former, until they attain the age of twenty-one years, the latter, eighteen years. The friends of the orphans are permitted to visit them on the first Monday of every month. The total number of children which have been received by this society, since its beginning, is 1293, that is, up to the time of the last report, for which I am indebted to the institution.

Half Orphan Asylum

"The society for the relief of Half orphan and Destitute Children" was established December 16, 1835. Since then, it has steadily and uninterruptedly extended its field of usefulness, a work which none but those who are familiar with its ceaseless labor of love, can fully appreciate. To have one glimpse of these well cared-for children, at the dinner table, in the school-room, or in the sanctuary, is or ought to be enough to satisfy anyone, and every one, that here is an institution which at once commends itself to all the wise, rich, and good; and the tender-hearted, liberal-minded well wisher of little helpless ones, cannot fail to heartily approve of such disinterested benevolence.

True the children of this institution are but half orphans, yet who does not know that many children who have both father and mother, are worse off than if they had neither; while others who have one parent, are often wretchedly provided for, or what is worse, subjected to an influence ruinously pernicious.

"The requisite conditions for admission are:

1. The death of one parent.
2. Freedom from all contagious disease.
3. A promise from the parents to pay fifty cents weekly for the board of the child, unless satisfactory reasons can be given to the managers why they should be exempted.
4. That the child be not under two nor over ten years of age."

The total number of children w2hich have enjoyed the benefits of this humane institution during its fifteen years of usefulness, is 1,223. The present number is 186.

Home For The Friendless

The "American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless," has been some sixteen years carrying forward a good work, and is entitled to the co-operation of all those who have silver and sympathy for that class to which this institution is daily extending important aid. The number of inmates received since 1847 to May, 1850, is, adults,1,074, children, 744 total 1,818.

Now, if the reader should doubt for a moment the utility or humanity of this institution, let him just go up to the "Home" on east 30th street, near Madison Avenue, and see w3hat kind friends, clean beds, airy rooms, and well-spread tables are there for those unprotected females whose only crime is want of shelter, work, and bread, and if he is not then thoroughly convinced, he must be marvelously incredulous. To say that the writer was exceedingly gratified to have the privilege of a brief introduction to such a Home, is not saying enough, and yet it is saying about as much as he has time to say. But one word from the "Rules."

"Adult females, of good moral character, destitute of funds, friends, or home, shall be received into this institution by order of any two of the managers, until their case can be examined, after which, if approved as worthy applicants, they shall be boarded and employed till suitable places can be found for them; with the understanding, that, in all cases they shall conform strictly to the rules of the house, accept cheerfully such situations, or service-places as may be deemed suitable, and endeavor to acquit themselves creditably. All inmates of the institution of sufficient age, shall be expected" "to appropriate a suitable portion of their time to manual labor while they may remain, and to be under the control and direction of the Matron."

"Children for whom admission to the Home is desired should have a permit, signed by a member of the Committee or Board."

"Friendless or destitute girls, under the age of sixteen, and over three years of age, and boys under six and over three years old, either orphans, half-orphans, or abandoned by their parents, may be received and provided for until permanent homes in Christian families can be secured for them by adoption or otherwise.

"Hours of rising and retiring, for adults, shall be at five o'clock, a.m., and at ten o'clock, P.M., in summer, and at six o'clock, A.M., and nine o'clock, P.M., in winter. The children shall retire soon after supper, and rise in season for bathing and dressing before breakfast. The matron shall pass through the dormitories after the hour of retiring, and see that the lights are extinguished, and the lamps removed." "The discipline of the institution shall be strictly parental in its character." The receipts and disbursements during the past year amounted to $14,141.69.

Asylum For Aged Indigent Females

The "Association for the Relief of Respectable Aged Indigent Females" has been laboring in a very important field for thirty-seven years, and the praise-worthy efforts of this institution have not been in vain. The Asylum was founded in 1838. The report for 1850, and for which I am indebted to the institution, presents the following statistics:

The family of the Asylum consists of eighty-five members, and precisely the same number of aged females, termed "out-door pensioners," have also been cared for by this society. Of the inmates, during the past year, seven have died, whose united ages were 507 years. Of the out-door pensioners, nine have died. One at the advanced age of 105 years, and five others, at 80, 84, 86, and 90 years; their united ages being 531 years, average age 88 1/2 years. The rule of the society is to receive none but those of the character above stated, nor any under sixty years of age.

The writer visited this "Home for Old ladies" about the first of February last, and though his time was limited to a short period, yet he saw enough to produce a desire and a determination to call again. The Matron kindly conducted him through the several apartments which were comfortably furnished and in good order.

It being about the dinner hour, I received an invitation to visit the dining room, the room of all others which I most desired to see, and especially at such a favorable time. Not so much, however, to see the room, or what was on the table, nor even to eat it, though it was good enough for the king, as to see the guests in such a favorable attitude for exhibiting a lively sense of their distinguished comforts. And this, for me, was feast enough, to fast the rest of the day.

The company constituted a very respectable family, though many from infirmity and other causes, took their meals in their own rooms. I counted fifty at the tables which were abundantly spread with fish, such as no man, fresh from "Cape Cod," could object to, (for they have fish once a week,) and potatoes that would have pleased the palate of "Father Mathew," and as good bread as bakers know how to make, and, to top off with, a large allowance of rice pudding. Many of them looked contented and happy, and appeared to feel as much at home as it is easy for one to feel outside of his or her own cabin.

To me, it was indeed a blessed thought that so many afflicted ones could spend the remainder of their days, the decline of life, in peace, at this quiet home, and I love to call to mind my visit to that charitable institution, for it adds much to my stock of comfortable thoughts, as often as I do so, and I doubt whether any one can visit it and not feel compelled to admit that he is well paid for his trouble.

And now, reader, whether your mother is among the number or not, if she is among the living, you know not how soon she may be there, and so take our advice, and furnish an apartment there, and have it ready for her, and should she never need such a provision, others will. Put a comfortable bed there, and get some good mother's blessing, and see if your own bed don't grow softer every night. The first man that will try it, and is not satisfied, we will take the bed off of his hands forthwith.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Asylums of New York City  1851
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 BIBLIOGRAPHY: What I Saw in New York, or, A Bird's eye view of City Life by Joel H. Ross; Auburn, N.Y. Derby & Miller, 1851
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