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State Board of Charities of New York: Reports 1878-1884

Reports of the State Board of Charities of New York  1878-1884

Editor’s Note In the early years of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections, representatives of the states in attendance were invited to share reports on their experiences, problem areas and achievement in connection with the charities and institutions in their respective states. Below are reports from the New York representative  at the conferences held from 1978 to 1884. 

1878: NEW YORK. DR. CHARLES S. HOYT, Secretary of the State Board of Charities of New York, addressed the Conference regarding the charities of that State, and also as to the work of the Board and its relations to those institutions. The estimated value of the property held for charitable purposes in New York is now: real estate, $27,708,952; personal estate, $5,260,060: total, $32,969,012. The receipts of these institutions the past year amounted to $8,921,538, of which sum $992,724 was from the State treasury, $4,786,115 from cities and counties, and $886,439 from private munificence. The expenditures during the year were, for buildings and improvements, $957,802; for supervision and maintenance, $7,648,750: total, $8,606,552. The average number of persons under care in the various classes of institutions of the State during the year was: In the State insane-asylums, 2,714; in the asylums for the blind, 356; in the institutions for deaf-mutes, 922; in the State School for Idiots, 230; in the State Inebriate Asylum, 61; in the houses of refuge, 1,347; in the county poorhouses, 6,841; in the city almshouses, 9,203; in the orphan-asylums and reformatories, 15,990; in the homes for aged persons, 3,907; in the hospitals, 2,064: total average of all classes under care, 43,095. To this should be added the number of persons temporarily relieved by city, county, and town officials, and by the various medical charities and other benevolent organizations.

The control of this large amount of property and these enormous expenditures, as well as the oversight and care of such great numbers of beneficiaries, is given by statute to local officers, managers, or trustees. The State Board has no executive duties in the matter, except in the case of certain insane, and as regards State paupers. The Board possesses full powers of visitation and examination, and may call the attention of the attorney-general or the district-attorneys to any matters requiring legal action; who are required to make investigation, and institute proceedings. The suggestions of the Board, however, have generally been kindly received and acted upon by officials, so that a resort to legal measures in but few instances has been necessary.

Among the more important reforms brought about in the administration of charitable work in New York since the organization of the State Board, Dr. Hoyt enumerated the following: —

1. An improved condition of the poorhouses generally, with more extended classification, better accommodations for the sick, and special provision for the aged and infirm.

2. A general improvement in the treatment and care of the chronic insane poor by their removal to the Willard Asylum, the erection of new county-asylums, and the employment of medical officers and attendants to look to their welfare.

3. The removal of dependent children from poorhouses and almshouses, and providing for their training and care separate from adult paupers.

During the session of the last legislature, the law regarding the adoption and binding-out of children was amended so as better to protect the rights and welfare of the child; and it was believed that highly valuable results would grow out of this legislation. The last legislature also provided for the establishment of an asylum for unteachable, feeble-minded girls and young women. Heretofore there had been no refuge for this class, other than in the county poorhouses, and the need of a separate institution for their protection and care had long been felt.

In conclusion, Dr. Hoyt said that the importance of the work of the New York State Board seemed generally to be appreciated by the citizens of the State, and the Board received proper consideration from the legislature.

Source: Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference Of Charities Held In Connection With The General Meeting Of The American Social Science Association. Cincinnati, May, 1878. Pp.25-26. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

1879: DR. CHARLES S. HOYT then gave a brief history of his experience and observations, and the condition of affairs in his State. There had been a substantial reduction of pauperism in New York as a result of the application of intelligent remedies. The care of’the chronic insane was one of the chief difficulties with which they had to contend, and he believed it was the same in other States. This difficulty had culminated in the establishment of the Willard Asylum on Seneca Lake, for the chronic insane, by themselves. The tendency of opinion was in favor of this separation, and he had no doubt the legislature would soon provide for another institution of the kind, in addition to that just established at Binghamton. The establishment of institutions for feeble-minded girls had been an important step in advance, and he thought the result would prove satisfactory. The State Board of New York had nothing to do with prisons. Since it was organized, in 1867, it had done much to improve the county poor-houses. The chronic class of insane had never been brought under State influence until the establishment of the Board. Now they had as much care as the acute insane. It had been demonstrated in New York that the system of having the insane-asylum and poorhouse under the same direction, and at the same place, was a failure. The insane needed separation. Children were also being removed from the poor-houses, and New York had made a great advance in the treatment of all dependent children. A long step forward was the establishment of the Custodial Asylum for Female Idiots, which was economically managed, and promised to become self-supporting, beside taking care of a class of feeble-minded persons, and restraining them from becoming the parents of diseased offspring.

The legislature had generously responded to the recommendations of the Board of Charities. Dr. Wilbur said the result of many years of experiment had decided that idiot-asylums should be educational, and the object of the education should be preparation for some form of labor. The question then arose, what should be done with idiots after they had left the educational institutions, and with idiots too low to be educated. In New York it seemed probable that a secondary institution would be established for the care of such cases. In her visits to county poorhouses, Mrs. Lowell had found many feeble-minded women and girls who were the mothers of illegitimate children. The State was asked to afford the means of establishing an asylum for them. This had been done, and the institution was now in its second year with about 75 inmates, whose annual maintenance was very low, being only about $120.

Source: Proceedings Of The Sixth Annual Conference Of Charities, Held At Chicago, June, 1879. Pp. 20-21. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

1880: MR. OGDEN’S REPORT-THE WILLARD ASYLUM. With many thanks for the kindness extended to me, I will try not to weary your patience by extended remarks. I am here by appointment of the Board of Trustees of ” Willard Asylum for the Insane.” We deemed it becoming and proper to have representatives in this Conference of Charities, this body of high purpose and action. I fully concur with the able and distinguished secretary of the Board of State Charities of our State, Dr. Hoyt, that there has been progress in our State. Civilization has been moving on and up. The public sentiment has been more turned to deeds of charity; the public conscience is more enlightened; the standards are higher and the feeling better; and both in publio and private, in word and in deed, in legislation and in private organization there has been progress. One of the potent agencies in this movement forward has been the Board of State Charities, whose work has permeated and been felt in every nook and corner of the State, and whose fostering care, advice and encouragment, has been apparent in all our charities, both great and small. The world does move and in the right direction.

A word now of Willard Asylum, one of the last, but one of the noblest of our State charities. I will not call it a model institution, nor boast of what it is, but I do desire to present it as a successful (I will not say experimental) Asylum. It was somewhat of a new departure from old ways, and it has triumphed over difficulties, like all new undertakings; it has not paused in its march, but gone on steadily, until today it is the largest institution of the kind on this continent. It was opened ten years ago, and it has now an insane population of wellnigh 1,600. Its peculiarity is that it cares for the chronic pauper insane alone; no private patients are received. None gain admittance save on the order of the poor authorities of the counties. The State has furnished the buildings, the State appoints the managers, and pays the local officers; the counties pay for the maintenance of the insane they send to the asylum. The actual cost, at the present price for food and labor, will not vary far from $2.60 per week per patient, and this small pittance the people of the counties pay cheerfully, feeling that the most unfortunate and helpless of their people are thus carefully provided for.

Three leading ideas inspired the establishment of Willard Asylum: First, to remove from the poorhouse care or abuse the chronic insane domiciled and confined therein; Second, to make the State the guardian and protector of the pauper insane, the most dependent and helpless and hopeless of her people. The end sought, most just and true and humane, was to make the irresponsible, bed-ridden, unfortunate chronic pauper insane the wards of the State; to put them under the protection of the great body politic, the State, and remove them from the tender mercies,or plainly speaking, from the counties and towns where there was want of care, neglect and often cruel treatment and wrong. Third, less expensive buildings. It seemed, and it was and is, a waste of money to build palaces for paupers. It seemed wrong to spend money for simple ornament, and most of all it seemed wicked to make jobs for plunder out of sacred charity; and at Willard the effort was made and has been carried forward, to build plain, good, substantial buildings, looking more to inside comfort and convenience than outside ornament and display. The buildings at Willard are not mean, but are imposing; though plain, not niggardly in outfit, but with all the modern improvements and appliances. The standard of care is not here lowered, but rather elevated, and 1,600 homeless insane paupers have today comfortable homes, warm, clean rooms, and will have them for life at Willard Asylum, under the care and protection of the great State of New York. These three ideas have been successfully utilized and made practical at Willard. The poorhouses here have been substantially emptied, and, let me here say, have been vastly improved through the reflex influence of the Asylum in the removal of the insane, by the change of policy.

The State has practically assumed guardianship of the insane poor, and today we provide at Willard, rooms and care, homes and comfort for about $400 per patient, instead of $3,000, as has been the fact in the construction of some of our other State institutions for the insane. Dr. Chapin, our superintendent, has been the main architect in the working out of this policy, and Willard feels proud of him as we do of our asylum. It stands a monument of advance, and its silent influence will continue to bless and make better in all time to come.

I was glad last night to listen to the very able and radical – no, I will not say that, – the very just and sound address of General Brinkerhoff, the President of the Conference, in regard to the insane and their care; of asylums for them, and their construction and management. State guardianship for the most unfortunate and pitiable of all our people, seems to me eminently just humanity. Christian civilization and enlightened policy demand that the State, the sovereign and chief power thereto, cast the strong arm of its protection around these suffering children of misfortune, but not of crime – this dependent, irresponsible, but misguided and dangerous class. Such has been the idea at Willard from the beginning, and the people and the Legislature are with us now; this policy has become fixed and settled in New York, and we protest against a return to poorhouse care, abuse and suffering. We do not object that counties should care for their insane, if they will provide proper asylums away from the poorhouse, and becoming care, under the supervision and visitation and direction of the State Board of Charities; for that would be State care and guardianship.

Again, at Willard, we have ignored partisan politics; our board of management has been from the beginning, and is now, composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and we have entire harmony. We vote as we please, and some of our number are active in their parties, but in the administration of our noble charity, we forget partisanship and rally round the common humanity and benevolence which ought to govern all men of all parties.

Source: Proceedings Of The Seventh Annual Conference Of Charities And Correction, Held At Cleveland, June And July, 1880. Pp. lxxiv – lxxvi. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

1882: DR. CHARLES S. HOYT, New York: I have been interested in the reports from the states where there is no board, and I feel that New York is interested in them, and that in deference to the gentlemen here I ought not to take the time of this conference, under the circumstances, to refer to the work of the board in New York. But I will anticipate in some directions in which it may become necessary for me to refer to its action in a special direction, and I will content myself with summing up in a very few words. The charities of New York are of three classes: those supported and supervised by the state; those under the control and direction of municipalities; and those controlled and managed by private corporations, aided by the public. In the first are the blind, the deaf and dumb, idiotic and infirm children. In the second are the county poor houses and the city alms houses, and local institutions for the chronic insane. The expenditures last year were about $8,000,000, or $1.60 per capita on a basis of 5,000,000 inhabitants. The average number under care was about 40,000, or one to each 800 of the population. Of this number about 10,000 were insane persons, or one to each 500 of the population. The statistics of the inmates and the expenditures are embraced at considerable length in the last annual report, and in time will be furnished to all members of this association. The improvements effected in New York during the past year have been quite marked. During this time an additional asylum for the chronic insane has been opened at Binghampton, until now it practically gives us room for all coming under the control and management of the state board of charities. The asylum for feeble minded girls was organized two years ago, and has been enlarged and better adapted to their needs; there are about two hundred girls too feeble minded to protect themselves from the wicked and designing; they are placed in the custody of proper persons and taught such things as their capacity will admit of, and they are regarded as permanent wards of the state. We look on this as one of the greatest advances made. This care extends to those who have reached mature life and have no families to which to send them back and who would otherwise go to the poor house. During this present year another additional branch of the state asylum for feeble minded has been established in connection with that at Syracuse for adult males. Over 100 acres have been secured, and additional buildings are to be added, and a large number of the inmates of the state school are soon to be transferred to this, and there is now provision made to take the more helpless of this class from the poor houses and place them here, so all the feeble minded are to all intents and purposes wards of the state; we take this class and make them a charge on the state, whereas a pauper was a charge on the locality where he was settled. These are the improvements made during the year, and I shall content myself without any further remarks at this time. In regard to the blind and the insane, New York has its policy, and it will give me pleasure during the progress of the discussion to allude to them in the proper order of the subjects as they arise. There is also a reformatory for women at Hudson established during the past year, for which buildings are now being erected.

Source: Proceedings Of The Ninth Annual National Conference Of Charities’ Corrections Held At Madison, Wis., Aug. 7-12, 1882. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

1883: DR. HOYT: There has been no material change in the number of trustees or managers of the charitable institutions of New York since the formation of the State Board. Our State charitable institutions are generally controlled by boards of five, seven or nine managers, appointed by the Governor and Senate, and classified as to their terms of office. There is no instance on record where any member of these Boards, or the superintendent of any of our State charitable institutions, has been removed on account of politics. In this way we retain the services of officers of ripe experience in their various departments, and the state receives the benefit of their experience.

MR. COOLEY: I would like to inquire of the gentleman who has just spoken in regard to a few features of the work. I understand you had three forms of supporting your charitable institutions. One is entirely by the state; one entirely by societies, churches, etc., and one is mixed, partly by the state and partly by churches.

DR. HOYT: Prior to the last amendment of the constitution, the Legislature had authority to aid charitable institutions under benevolent organizations, and it did make annual pro rata appropriations to these institutions. This is prohibited under the present constitution, but the counties and cities have authority to appropriate to orphan asylums, hospitals and like institutions. The expenses of the Houses of Refuge, the Institutions for the Deaf and Dumb, the Blind or the Feeble-Minded are met entirely by the state. For the insane the state provides the buildings and the medical supervision, while the expense of their maintenance and care falls upon their counties.

CHAIRMAN: I would like to ask if there is any aid granted by the State of New York to private corpdrations.

DR. HOYT: No, sir; the constitution, as before stated, prohibits it.

Source: Proceedings Of The Tenth Annual National Conference Of Charities And Corrections, Held At Louisville, Ky., September 24-30, 1883. Pp.57-58. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

1884  Dr. CHARLES S. HOYT, Albany. – There has been but one institution created by the State during the year; namely, the Northern New York Institution for Deaf Mutes, at Malone. This is placed upon the same basis as other institutions of this class, to be maintained by annual pro rata legislative appropriations. It opened with the present school year, having about twenty-five pupils.

The only important legislation affecting the charities and corrections of the State during the year is the following:

1. Providing for the transfer of the insane confined in State asylums, upon criminal charges, to the Asylum for Insane Convicts, at Auburn. These transfers may be made on the order of any justice of the Supreme Court, and a number of such transfers have already been effected. It is probable that, in the end, the State asylums will be thus entirely relieved of the custody and care of this class of insane.

2. Requiring the managers of all charitable institutions to deposit their funds in some trust company, national bank, or other approved fiscal agent. This will prevent speculation in the public funds, and thus lessen the chances of loss to the State. The act is now in full operation.

3. By concurrent resolution of the Senate and Assembly, the attorney-general, the comptroller, and the president of the State Board of Charities were appointed a committee to devise and present to the next legislature a plan for the better accounting of the public moneys by the State institutions. The committee has made some progress in its work, but the results have not as yet been furnished to the public.

4. By an act of the legislature last winter, no contracts for labor in prisons, penitentiaries, reformatories, etc., can hereafter be entered into; and the contract system of labor in these institutions is to cease with the expiration of the present contracts. A recent decision of the attorney-general construes the act so as to prevent the employment of prisoners, etc., even by the piece, upon contract.

During the year, Dr. John B. Chapin, superintendent of the Willard Asylum for the Insane from its organization, resigned, and has accepted the superintendency of the Pennsylvania State Hospital for the Insane at Philadelphia. He has been succeeded by Dr. P. M. Wise, for several years the senior assistant physician of the institution. Dr. G. A. Doren, appointed superintendent of the State Idiot Asylum at Syracuse in October, 1883, recently resigned, and has been succeeded by Dr. J. C. Carson, late superintendent of the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. The appointments in the State institutions are wholly non-partisan; and the appointees are subject to the civil service rules and regulations, under the act of the legislature of I883.

The general policy of New York in regard to its charities and corrections remains unchanged, except as before noticed. An increasing interest by the public, in respect to charitable and correctional work, is apparent throughout the State. This is especially true in regard to the oversight and care of the insane and poor and in the management of the poorhouses. Nearly all the superintendents of the poor, whose terms expire with this year, have been renominated by their respective parties; and there is a growing sentiment in the State in favor of retaining competent and faithful officers having the supervision and custody of the insane and poor. Many of the superintendents are serving in their third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and more terms of three years each; and, in one county (Cayuga), the superintendent has served continuously ten terms, or thirty years, and he is renominated, and doubtless will be re-elected for the eleventh time. A large number of the keepers of the county poorhouses have served without interruption for over ten years; and, in several instances, they have been continued, notwithstanding political changes in the counties. While there is a probable increase in the number of insane in the State,- at least, more proportionately are brought to public notice than formerly,- there is little or no increase in pauperism from other sources.

There have been no new associations for charitable or reformatory work formed in the State the present year, except possibly charitable organization societies in cities. The State Charities Aid Association of New York City continues its work, and the work of the State Board is furthered by the visiting committees appointed by it in various counties. A fair degree of activity is shown by this association and these committees, and the board regards them as valuable auxiliaries.

The subject of emigration is one of the most important questions affecting the charitable and penal work of New York. It is clearly established that the State is being constantly and heavily burdened by the influx of lunatic, idiotic, imbecile, crippled, and otherwise infirm and helpless chronic alien paupers and criminals, systematically deported to this country for no other apparent purpose than to rid the communities in which they were born of troublesome and expensive burdens. The evil, pointed out at length in the last annual report of the New York State Board, is a growing one, gradually extending to other States, and thus assuming a national importance, demanding federal legislative action.

A DELEGATE asked whether there had been any check to pauper immigration through New York.

DR. HOYT.- Very slight. The Congressional act of I882 provides for a tax of fifty cents upon each person arriving from foreign countries, to be paid to the collector of the port at which the person may land. The examination of immigrants and the execution of the act are dependent upon local boards or officers, under contract with the Secretary of the Treasury. The investigation at the various ports is not always so thorough as it should be; and improper persons, who ought immediately to be sent back in the vessels bringing them to the country, are not infrequently permitted to land and find their way to the interior, to burden the public. In 188o, the New York legislature authorized the State Board of Charities to return to the countries whence they were shipped any lunatic, idiotic, epileptic, or otherwise infirm alien pauper; and small annual appropriations, since then, have been made for this purpose. The return of these classes has been steadily kept up by the Board, and I learn that Pennsylvania has recently taken like measures to protect itself in this direction. The Commissioners of Emigration return some of these classes landing in New York, and the Massachusetts State Board some of those landing in Boston. The whole system relating to emigration, however, is extremely defective; and the country, especially the seaboard States, is being constantly and heavily burdened by the shipment of helpless chronic paupers and criminals to its shores. The West also begins in this respect to feel the burdens thrust upon it, largely over the Canadian borders. The act of Congress needs revision, placing the whole subject of emigration under the control and direction of federal authorities; and there is no question of greater importance likely to come before this Conference. I trust that some positive action will be taken in the matter before our adjournment.

Source: Proceedings Of The National Conference Of Charities And Correction, At The Eleventh Annual Session, Held At St. Louis, October I3-17, 1884.  Pp.46-49. National Conference on Social Welfare Proceedings (1874-1982).

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