The Charleston Orphan House: Children's Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America (Markets and Governments in Economic History)

18 Nov

The Charleston Orphan House: Children's Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America (Markets and Governments in Economic History)

The Charleston Orphan House: Children's Lives in the First Public Orphanage in America (Markets and Governments in Economic History)

John E. Murray

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 0226924092

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The first public orphanage in America, the Charleston Orphan House saw to the welfare and education of thousands of children from poor white families in the urban South. From wealthy benefactors to the families who sought its assistance to the artisans and merchants who relied on its charges as apprentices, the Orphan House was a critical component of the city’s social fabric. By bringing together white citizens from all levels of society, it also played a powerful political role in maintaining the prevailing social order.
 
John E. Murray tells the story of the Charleston Orphan House for the first time through the words of those who lived there or had family members who did. Through their letters and petitions, the book follows the families from the events and decisions that led them to the Charleston Orphan House through the children’s time spent there to, in a few cases, their later adult lives. What these accounts reveal are families struggling to maintain ties after catastrophic loss and to preserve bonds with children who no longer lived under their roofs.
 
An intimate glimpse into the lives of the white poor in early American history, The Charleston Orphan House is moreover an illuminating look at social welfare provision in the antebellum South.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this account were to be combined with the general expense fund that Council managed, “such dissatisfaction will be treated among the citizens as in a great measure to extinguish the hope of future donations and bequests of the Institution.” Council duly retreated.35 Donations continued to flow in, and from some unlikely sources. Shows of fireworks (“no person [to] be admitted without a ticket”) mounted in the lot of the Orphan House were popular.36 A Madam DeBonneville offered fifty-eight

done all in her power but that her husband objects to the keeping the children, as he cannot support them.”37 Occasionally men emerged from children’s extended family. Typically they passively accepted responsibility for their young kin rather than actively seeking to care for them. A good example occurred in the case of a full orphan named Conrad Rempp. Soon after his father’s death, his stepmother proved unable or unwilling to support him, so Conrad was passed along to his maternal uncle, a

her they called for her to be examined by a physician to see if her condition could be cured and (one suspects this mattered more) whether it was contagious. The doctor offered enough promise of the former and denial of the latter that they allowed Fanny into the Orphan House “in order that the physician might attend her and see if there [was] a possibility of curing her eyes.”63 It was not until the next spring that she marked her indentures, signifying her official and permanent entrance into

of the matter. Rather than submit to the board’s interrogation, however, she arranged to send a letter that snapped with indignation: “Gentlemen, If you do not think that my children are white enough you will be pleased to send them home to me & I shall endeavor to maintain them.” And that is exactly what happened: Alfred and Harriott returned to their mother the day that letter was written.69 The record does not disclose how the commissioners learned of the Burbridge children’s surprising

twisted away

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