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Children of Circumstance: Part I

A History Of The First 125 Years (1849-1974) Of The Chicago Child Care Society.

By: Clare L. McCausland

(Note 1: The material that follows consists of long excerpts from the book and copied here with permission of the Chicago Child Care Society.)

(Note 2: The Chicago Child Care Society is the oldest child welfare organization in the state of Illinois. Begun as the Chicago Orphan Asylum in 1849 it changed its name in 1949. Its purpose, to care for children in need, has never changed. The history of this organization also reflects the growth of the city of Chicago, IL from a simple town of 30,000 to a large metropolitan area. Through the history of the Society we can also observe the impact on social service organizations of the Civil War, the Great Chicago Fire, World War I and the Great Depression.)

In 1849 when the Chicago Orphan Asylum opened its doors, Chicago was an uncertain place. A village of 350 persons in 1833 when it was incorporated, it had grown to just under 30,000 in sixteen years… The great western migration of the1830’s responsible for this growth had brought great expectations and great problems… The town’s boosters, and they were many, pointed out Chicago’s superb location…a strategic point in the chain of the Erie Canal, Lake Michigan, and the Illinois and Michigan Canal…the railroad network from the East was bound to be extended and the city would be an important link in that chain of commerce too. Prospects were bright and the frontier vision of unlimited horizons was certainly the prevailing one. In 1837 a financial panic broke the bubble of speculation; inflated real estate prices collapsed; canal construction slowed gradually almost to a halt; and dozens of respected citizens sought relief through bankruptcy proceedings… people clamored for food and shelter…The almshouse couldn’t satisfy the demands…By the mid-forties things were looking up a bit. Work was resumed on the canal after 1845… In the same period construction began on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad and from the east came the Michigan Central…

But in 1849, down the same feted waterway of Lake Michigan came cholera in epidemic proportions. The disease had visited the city before, in 1832, but the situation was easier to handle. There were only 150 persons in Chicago then, and frontier ladies were used to helping each other. Children, often the only survivors of cholera, were usually absorbed into the already large families…

But in 1849 the Poor House was packed. The city was so much larger, and many of the stricken families were immigrants speaking foreign languages, living in squalid shacks far removed from the ordered lives of substantial families… The newspapers were full of references to cholera; almost everyone knew a family who had had a victim, and certainly no one could escape the sight and sound of homeless children left in the wake of the epidemic.

Everyone agreed something must be done… On the evening of August 7, the date of the second public meeting, the organizing committee reported many tasks completed. Eight orphans had already been put under the care of a Mrs. Hanson, temporarily engaged as matron at 73 Michigan Avenue. Many more were expected to arrive daily. A Constitution was presented for adoption; among its provisions was a $25.00 annual membership, or $5.00 down and an equal sum annually until $30.00 had been paid. “If one thing more than another,” observed the Chicago Daily Journal in its account of the meeting, “can cause us to think better of the world and those who live in it, surely it is an enterprise like this.”….

The 1849 Directory also has a first listing for the Chicago Orphan Asylum, on Wells Street between Van Buren and Harrison, together with the statement that “the children are under the maternal care of Mrs. Ruth Hanson, who gives entire satisfaction.” It seems plausible that in the emergency of early August, 1849, when the Trustees appointed Mrs. Hanson Matron and began to receive destitute children immediately she took them into her own home. Mrs. Wheeler, in memories reaching back forty-three years, recalled a little frame house fronting east on a grass grown street, with the “moanings of Lake Michigan” supplying “lullabys,” but perhaps forgot that the house belonged to Mrs. Hanson. Those memories also recalled that the Asylum soon moved to larger quarters on Adams, between State and Dearborn and then to a still larger house on Wells between Van Buren and Harrison. Like the first two, this house was wooden, but it had a useful brick basement and pleasant shade trees in the front yard. There children certainly were housed in October, 1849, when the City Directory went to press. One wonders why there is no reference to all this moving in the minutes for 1849.

Instead, the September records show the Directresses still sewing clothes and bedding,reviewing purchases (unspecified), and discussing who should be physician for the Asylum. Two doctors had offered their services; the ladies moved to refer that decision to the Trustees. And they also changed the meeting time to the first Tuesday of every month; the agency Board today still meets then. In October the Directresses were coping with the diet for the children. They turned down one prepared by Mrs. Dr. Dyer of the Committee on Diet and Provisions and decided Mrs. Hanson should be allowed to provide her own food,turning in an “exact account” to the Board each month. Mrs. Walker of the Committee on Instruction presented a daily schedule for the children, but unfortunately the Secretary didn’t record what it was nor whether it was accepted. And, feeling the approach of Chicago’s cold winter, the Board took steps toward purchasing stoves. There is no mention of moving, although it was n this month that the City Directory lists them in their third house.

The Directresses had set up four committees in their organization meeting: Health;Diet; Instruction; and Wardrobe, Bedding, General Order and Cleanliness. All had begun work in 1849. So had another most important committee although, oddly enough, it is never referred to as such in the 1849 minutes. Article 23 of the bylaws directed that a committee consisting of the First and Second Directresses and the Secretary of the Board should “inquire into the circumstances of every Mrs. Jerome Beecher, a founding directress and two children she adopted from Chicago Orphan Asylum. child applying for admission. …”

No one, in fact, could be admitted without a written order from at least one of this committee or by order of the President. Certainly a few children had been accepted by Mrs. Hanson before this Reception, or Admission, Committee was really organized, but it was underway by September, 1849. The first entry, and the only one for that date, in the Admissions Ledger is September 11: a Swedish girl whose parents has died of cholera. Around this date a pleasant story has grown up, first told in Mrs.Wheeler’s Annals. She writes that Mrs. Hanson and three little orphans found shelter on September 11 in the Michigan Avenue house. “It is a noteworthy fact,” she adds, “that our beloved co-laborers, Mrs. Chas.Follansbee and Mrs. Jerome Beecher put the three little children to bed the first night of the opening of the institution.” Mrs. Follansbee was still on the Board in 1892; Mrs. Beecher was an honorary member. On that far-away September day Mrs. Follansbee lived just around the corner from 37 Michigan Avenue and Lake Street between Michigan and Wabash, and Mrs. Beecher down the Avenue at 77. It would have been easy for them to slip in to see the children to bed. Did September 11 become the “first night” because official records of admission begin on that date?

Tantalizing glimpses of other activities of the two Boards during these settling down months appear in the newspapers. On August 21 the Chicago Daily Journal reports the Committee of Ladies in behalf of the Orphan Asylum have “commenced operations” and are meeting “with glorious success.” They are”so smiling and winning and all that, nobody can refuse them.” By September two benefits were in the planning stages: Mr. Brown and Mr. Hoard had accepted the offer of the manager of the Olympic Arena to arrange a violin concert for September 4; and Mrs. Kinzie, as requested by her Board, had asked the noted musician Mr. Frank Lumbard to arrange a musical benefit for September 13. The Daily Journal reported on September 6: “That concert at the Olympic went off splendidly, and so did the Manager and the funds!”The ladies were more fortunate. Although tickets were only $1.00 for a couple and 60c for a single, they cleared $210.00 and the concert had rave reviews. In November, 1849, the papers highlighted the incorporation of the Chicago Orphan Asylum on the fifth of the month. Its stated purpose was “the protecting, relieving, educating of, and providing means of support and maintenance for orphan and destitute children.”

We can only conjecture what happened in the asylum during 1850 and 1851. They were still in the house on Wells Street according to the Annals; one hundred children had been admitted in the first two years. At the end of 1851 there were twenty-four in the Asylum, four babies, the others “little more.” One was a mute girl, Fanny, who was to become a great favorite and special charge of the ladies for many years. Farmers had opened their doors to many, either to replace a “lost loved one” or to teach a child “activities for a useful life.” Mrs. Bronson had replaced Mrs. Hanson at some stage. The 1851 City Directory states she was endeavoring”to give the Institution the character and influence of ‘home’ as far as possible.” Her stay was brief, for Mrs. Fleming had charge of the “family,” as the children were called affectionately, from late 1851 through 1853. She too is described in the language of home, “faithful and conscientious, tender, and mother-like.” Calling the institution a home,the children a family, and the matrons tender, loving, mother-like was typical of nineteenth century descriptions of orphan asylums. But the early records of Chicago Orphan Asylum show these words were not mere euphemisms; they characterized the goals of the founders. When the minutes of the Board of Directresses resume in July, 1852, the ladies appear as a hardworking and smoothly running group. Problems still clustered about the health and education of the children, their indenture and adoption,not to mention windows to be glazed and cisterns to be replaced, but the Board was geared to tackle every variety of problem. Need for money hung over them always, but they had their ways of coping with that too.

Six successive years of epidemics and a constantly growing population brought hundreds of children before the Reception Committee week in and week out all through the fifties. The Admission Ledger gives life and color to the bare numbers reported to the Board. There was a preponderance of Irish children for many years. Others are designated as German, Swedish, Norwegian, and English; a few are called American, one was Hungarian; there were three “Africans” and two “partly African.” For the most part,they were brought by mothers, fathers, or relatives, for from the beginning a child need not be an orphan to be admitted. It was the Mayors who, in this early period, usually sent the orphans. They obviously found the institution a valuable resource; no longer need they commit these children to the Poor House.Occasionally they sent groups of children for shelter: twenty-seven boys and girls on January 2, 1852; eighteen in 1853. The groups came from centers (depots) where they had been gathered on the deaths of their parents from cholera, or they were vagrants found sleeping in doorways or under the raised wooden sidewalks. Very occasionally a baby was left on the orphanage doorstep.One such foundling caused a great stir when one of the ladies recognized her clothes and said she had been stolen by a noted Negro thief. The child was illegitimate; the record does not say whether she was kept or returned to the mother. Need opened the orphanage door; the Trustees and Directresses meant it when they said any destitute child was welcome.

The children, however, were not expected to remain for years in the institution. All through the fifties they passed in and out with great rapidity. They were indentured, adopted, returned to a parent, or relative, a few ran away, and many, particularly the babies, died. What the authorities really wanted was to have applicants surrender the children to the Asylum so that they could plan for them unhampered. There were two forms of surrender (see picture). One turned over a child for a period of three months. If at the end of that time, the parent could not or did not provide a home for it he would sign a full surrender. That form required complete “relinquishment” of all rights and claims in”consideration of the benevolence manifested by (The Chicago Orphan Asylum) in …rearing and providing for my said child.” That phrase meant,among other things, that the parent would not ask or receive compensation for the service of his child, nor would he try to induce him to leave the family in which he might be placed.

Such a surrender cleared the decks for placing a child in a home either by indenture or adoption. The Act of Incorporation had given the Trustees “in their discretion” the right to “bind out (a) child to some suitable employment, in the same manner as poor and indigent children may now be bound out according to the laws of this state.” The 1845 Revised Statutes of Illinois defined the laws governing apprentices under which Chicago Orphan Asylum indentured children in the fifties.They provided that minors under fourteen could be bound out (without their consent) by indenture or covenant of service as clerks, apprentices, or servants by fathers, mothers, or guardians as the case may be. Although the Asylum surrender forms never went through the courts, they were apparently regarded as legal by both parties, making the Trustees in effect the guardians of the child. It was 1878 before the validity of the surrender form was questioned. The Judge ruled then that it was illegal, ‘no better than a bond of straw.” But up to that time the Trustees acted in good faith as legal guardians. The 1845 Statutes safeguarded the indentured child by several provisions: he was taught reading, writing, and the ground rules of arithmetic; and at the end of his term of service (twenty-one for boys, eighteen for girls) was to be given a new Bible and two complete sets of new wearing apparel “suitable to his or her condition in life.” He was also to be taught a trade or profession so that he would “be useful to himself and the community.” An exception was made for the Negro or mulatto. It was not necessary to teach him reading,writing, and arithmetic, although the other provisions remained mandatory.(This exception was removed in 1874 when the statutes were revised.) Legal methods were specified for receiving and handling apprentices’ complaints on the one hand, and those of the master on the other.
Two hundred and six indentures from 1850-1859 have been preserved in the agency’s archives. They do not tell the whole story; there are only twenty, for example, from the first two years when one hundred children passed through the orphanage doors. But they do yield some interesting historical data. The indentured children ranged in age from infants of a few days or weeks to a youth of seventeen years. Girls, without exception,were taught the “art” or “mystery” of housekeeping; boys were destined in the main to be farmers, a few were to learn shoe making, butchering, the livery business, a “mechanical” trade, or some”useful and respectable occupation.” In only one indenture is money mentioned; $100.00 was added to the usual obligations of the master at the end of service. A unique feature of Chicago Orphan Asylum’s indenture form was its right to rescind the contract and take back the child if it was, in any way,dissatisfied with his treatment. In the ” statutes this right is reserved for the court.

The idea of indentured service was not new in the nineteenth century; its roots go back to the English Poor Law. Since the founding of the country the value of work had never been doubted. It was idleness that was a sin. The Puritans regularly bound out their sons (between the ages of ten and fourteen) to learn a trade, and in later years overseers of the poor found indenture a good way to get children out of the ill-assorted company in the Poor House and into homes. There were those who argued that indenture was a way of ensuring that the destitute, the vagrant, and the petty offender against the law would be placed in families instead of institutions. A few voices were raised against the cheap labor aspects of the system. Charles Loring Brace was one in the mid-fifties. One of the founders of the New York Children’s Aid Society, he organized a program of placing out children in families; he thought the “institutionalism” of orphan asylums and houses of refuge rested on the wrong kind of discipline. He wanted the family, God’s Reformatory he called it, to accept the child, but without indenture. The language of the early records of the Asylum indicates that the Trustees and Directresses accepted indenture as a satisfactory way to place a child.

An Indenture Paper dated June 24, 1850.
Thorough investigation of the families looking for indentured servants would of course have mitigated some of the evils of the system, but this was not the pattern of the day. There is almost no reference in the fifties to the Asylum’s investigation policy with regard to the indentured child. It did require references, but the few extant are so general in character as to be almost meaningless. Since the President and Secretary of the Trustees signed all indentures, some letters came to them. Here for example is one written to Secretary Higginson in 1853:

Another, equally general, is this note to President Brown:

President Brown himself reporting to the joint annual meeting of Trustees and Directresses in 1854, commented that forty-five children had been placed, by indenture, in “good families,where it is supposed they will receive proper care, and be fitted to become useful members of society.” On one occasion the ladies gave a power of attorney to a “gentleman of St. Charles” to investigate the”case of an indentured boy,” but such an action was unusual in the early days. Presumably signing the indenture form was taken at face value as indicating good intentions

Adoption, the other method of securing a”good” home for a destitute child, was a loosely used term in 1849.The common law of Illinois did not recognize the theory of child adoption and the Adoption Act was eighteen years away. What the Asylum meant by adoption in the fifties was apparently a kind of guardianship lasting until the child was of age.

But when in the fifties a family came seeking a child to “take the place of a lost loved one” or to brighten a childless home, there appears to have been a much more structured investigation than in service requests. References were required (three later and probably that same number in the fifties), and there was a trial period of three months during which each party could back out (it was normally only the adoptive family that did). There was also a strict rule that the natural parent must never be told where his child was. That rule held for the indentured child too. Contact by the Asylum with adopted children was almost the rule; there is little indication that the lives of indentured children were followed closely.Minutes and the Reference Book are full of quotations from adoptive parents’ letters: “she is very much loved, growing beautiful”; “a great hit…bids fair to make a fine youth”; we are “much attached to her” ; and “rather idle and careless but a hopeful case yet.”Twenty years after adoption, there is an entry opposite the name of that Swedish girl admitted on September 11, 1849; she was married and had two boys.Tucked in with the indenture papers of1858 is a letter from an adoptive father. He, apparently, felt an obligation to report although the Asylum had not pursued him:
Policies during these settling-down years often were made because of a disturbing incident in the daily routine. A baby was returned to the orphanage during a Board meeting. She had been “in and out” several times, so the ladies were led into a serious discussion of what should be their policy toward “returnees” and, from that, the whole subject of putting out children on trial. They could see no other course but to receive those who returned, but decided the Trustees might have other thoughts on the matter. Presumably the gentlemen agreed with them, for children continued to come “home,” those about whom adoptive parents had changed their minds during the trial period and those who were not satisfactory indentured workers.

Impinging on these problems was the whole question of the length: of time a child should stay in the orphanage. By 1856 the ladies were, apparently, satisfied that children improved under their care sufficiently for them to consider keeping all until they were ten years old. After several months’ consideration they appealed to the Trustees to approve this decision. The gentlemen, however,didn’t agree. They thought it best to “place them in good Families at any age. …” But the ladies did not give up. In 1859 the President of the Board of Trustees presented a resolution at the annual meeting that “children be retained at the Asylum until they are ten years of age, except in cases of adoption.” The runaways, fortunately very few and all boys but one, presented other problems but no general policy was formulated to deal with them. One was sent to a reform school when he was found. After the names of the three Africans, aged ten, thirteen and fourteen is the note ‘Went away” and the date; after the name of a Swedish runaway: “He says he went away because he did not like to stay.” Those who died weighed more heavily on the consciences of the Board members. By 1852 the matron had begun to report regularly on the size and state of the family.The sick and dead played a significant part in those reports. These are typical statements: “Only four months old, sick-apparently wasting away”;”the sick infant has gone to her last home”; “two died since the last report.” Mrs. Heming, summing up four months, reported eight deaths;all but two were “sick when they entered.” Even more grave were the statistics for 1853; twenty of the seventy-eight received had died. President Brown attributed the mortality to three causes:

First, a much larger proportion of children than in any other year were infants who had lost their mothers; second, a large number were the children of immigrants recently arrived in the most sickly months of the year. …But the third and most fatal cause was the appearance of the Cholera about the middle of August.

The continued applications of sick children and of foundlings, always medical risks, led to some policy decisions in 1855. The orphanage, the Directresses decided, was neither a hospital nor a foundling home. Its goals, as “they understood them” were “the proper maintenance and education of the future citizens of our commonwealth.” No one under two would be admitted (they confessed their record with infants was no better than that of the Poor House), and then only well children, pronounced so by the Asylum’s physician.

What Dr. Kelly thought of segregating new children until he pronounced them healthy we don’t know, but he was still on call a year later reporting with satisfaction that the Asylum had lived through a smallpox epidemic without a single child dying. In October, when the family was large, the Board considered hiring a doctor full time, but decided to keep the status quo, send for one when needed, and pay the usual fee. In February, Dr. Kelly was paid his final fee of $25.00. His successor, Dr. Ross, was also paid for his services. He presented a bill for $75.00 but was quite willing to accept $50.00 after talking it over with the Directresses. Anticipating his departure, the Board was already talking with Dr. Bevin who had offered his services free. The family was down to eleven at this time. Dr. Bevin required only that his prescriptions should be filled by a druggist at cost. That seemed reasonable enough, and the orphanage found itself in 1858 with free medical service for the first time in years. Everything went well in the medical department for a year. The Board considered hiring a nurse for $3 -$3.50 a week when the family increased to thirty-eight. Then Dr. Bevin announced he wished to resign. He was persuaded to stay to the end of the year and “Tendered” a vote of thanks for his services. Two other physicians saw the children through two fairly healthy years –1859 and 1860 — when the minutes of the Board ended. No mention is made of their being paid for their services.

Indenture claimed most of the older children, many of the family were babies or little more, and epidemics swept the Asylum, but the Directresses did not shirk their responsibility to provide such education as they could for their rapidly shifting and difficult population. Their Act of Incorporation referred specifically to education, and their often repeated goal of training future citizens demanded that the children be, at the very least, exposed to reading,writing, and the “ground rules” of arithmetic. The value of education was, too, as basic to their thinking as the value of work. These were the years when so many of the Trustees, and the ladies’ husbands, were struggling to improve the public schools. In the beginning, apparently, orphanage children of school age were sent to public school. In April, 1854, they turned down an application from a teacher because “the children are doing well in the public school.” Because, as the Board members knew well, school buildings were often inadequate, they thought it a good idea at the end of that year to petition the Board of Directors of Common Schools for District 17 to hold its primary school in one of the orphanage’s unoccupied rooms (they were in their own building by that time). The petition was denied on the grounds that the Catholic Orphan Asylum (also founded in 1849) was inthe same district; what they did for one they would be expected to do for the other.

But by the spring of 1856 there was some teaching in the Asylum; the minutes in April make the bare statement that the teacher reported to the Board. In the same month a bill for school books was presented, with the information that expenditures for those items could be reduced in the future by applying to the Moseley Fund. Flavel Moseley, friend of many of the Trustees and later a Trustee himself, had established a fund of $1,000 in 1855; the interest was to be used to buy books for the needy. When he died, a bequest of $10,000 swelled the fund, and District 17 was renamed the Moseley School district. This was the orphanage’s district.

A proposal to hire their own teacher in 1856 did not meet with unanimous approval, so the Directresses turned to the Trustees for their decision. Mr.Brown and “others” approved, but first the fence had to be repaired and a gate built to enclose the yard securely. After some discussion of the style of the gate, the Board voted to make the repairs and hire a teacher.There are scattered references to teaching in the Asylum over the next few years: $5.00 was paid for extra teaching during vacation, a clergyman’s widow applied for the job, asking board for her two children as part of her compensation. But detailed information is lacking until the seventies, and certainly there is no clear philosophy about the relative merits of public or Asylum education until that time. Far more attention in the minutes is paid to the education of Fanny, the deaf mute. She was sent to the Jacksonville Institution for the Deaf and Mute (its first building was opened in 1849), but the ladies continued to sew for her, obtained railroad passes to bring her “home” in the summer, and when the Superintendent informed them she might have to be transferred to the County for support, they voted to”supply her wants at their own expense.” Fanny was their child.

Early in the fifties it became obvious that the house on Wells Street was too small. In fact, after outgrowing several rented houses within a few months, the Trustees had begun looking in 1850 for a lot where they could build. For a while they thought one north of the Chicago River was the answer; a generous citizen had given the land to them. But as applications for admission continued without let-up, they decided a larger lot was needed for the building they had in mind. A committee of Trustees finally decided on a two acre tract of land, between Twenty-second and Twenty-third Streets, with frontage on both Michigan and Wabash. In those days this lot was only one hundred rods from the Lake. The price was only $600.00–three annual payments of $200.00 each. Mr. Brown, however, thought the location poor–too far out of town–so that one payment was allowed to lapse. In the end,therefore, they had to pay an extra $200.00. According to the Annals the ladies raised the whole amount by fairs in 1850, 1851, and 1852.

The Trustees, however, weighed in heavily in support of the Building Fund. They contributed liberally and solicited widely. When the family moved to their new quarters in 1853 the $20,000 building was debt free. A certificate used to commemorate the occasion describes its amenities. It was large enough to accommodate 150 children, was “heated with hot air,” and “admirably arranged for washrooms,cellarage, water closets. …” Charles Follansbee, William B. Ogden, and Jonathan Burr (a new Trustee and noted philanthropist) were the Building Committee. In the final months of construction, however, the entire committee was vacationing abroad, so Orrington Lunt stepped into the breech and supervised the end of the work. For the first time the name The Chicago Protestant Orphan Asylum appears, undoubtedly to distinguish it from the Catholic Orphan Asylum.

They provided religious services for the burial of their dead and ordered that at least one of the Directresses be notified and attend if possible.When they moved into their new home in 1853 they set up The Visiting Committee, a monthly rotating committee of two ladies to visit the home each week, look over the family and house, and make decisions on urgent matters which couldn’t wait until the next Board meeting. This was no light assignment. The Annalsrecalls long dusty, or muddy, walks from the end of the streetcars (Twelfth Street) across the open prairie to Twenty-second Street. On rare occasions, Mrs.Wheeler writes, Mr. Frank Parmalee provided omnibuses to take them from Randolph to Twelfth Street.

President Brown and Mr. Lunt met with this committee quarterly, for from it came many suggestions for maintenance and improvements of the property and, for that,Trustees’ approval was necessary. Inadequate drainage of the yard was one problem the ladies were glad to hand over to the men; those who had Trustee husbands (Mrs. Botsford and Mrs. Follansbee) prodded them to finish the job in a hurry. Piecemeal improvements to the grounds didn’t satisfy the ladies. They sent a formal request to the Trustees to “adopt a method” by which”essential improvements” could be accomplished. Contingent gifts then entered their lives; one Trustee offered $200.00 for the job if the ladies would raise $800.00. They did. And when a new cistern was required, Mr. Lind personally superintended its “setting.” One way or another the new home was kept in good order.

And it all took money. According to the Annals the office of Collector or Solicitor (specified in the bylaws) was not actually created before 1865.Before that the “ladies solicited funds and supplies as the necessities demanded.” Their smiling and winning ways apparently continued to bring insufficient money to run the Asylum, although there were some precarious times. A Fair in 1852 brought in over $1,000.00 and $600.00 in donations; that was topped the next year by receipts of $2,000.00 and nearly $100.00 in donations.The ladies were becoming more experienced: they started to plan in June for an autumn Fair, before the Directresses “scattered for the summer.” They called on all church ladies interested in their cause to gather at the house to prepare articles to be sold-they were also urged to attend the Fair and buy!Their announcement in the Daily Democratic Press of one Fair minced no words: “Ladies of Chicago-we have a large Hall to fill, a large community to wait upon-and a large sum to raise by this Fair.”

Strawberry festivals and occasional lunches also swelled the coffers. At one point when funds were low the Board urged every lady to make it her responsibility to solicit every member of the “religious society to which she belongs” for an annual contribution. The plan worked: four women raised enough to carry them over until the next Fair. At another time they divided the city into districts and assigned Directresses to solicit each one.

Then late in 1854 they took a drastic step. They “resolved to petition the Board of Supervisors (of Cook County) for an appropriation of money for the annual support of the family on the ground that they were constantly receiving children from the poor house.” The future of Chicago Orphan Asylum might have been different if this petition for public money had been successful. But it was denied because, the Supervisors said, the Asylum was a “voluntary benevolent institution and the law would not allow them to tax the County for the support of institutions of this class.” The orphanage took the children from the Poor House at “their own option”; they were not asked to do so.

Difficult financial years continued with the ladies cutting corners where they could, soliciting all their friends, and often acknowledging liberal contributions in cash or kind in the daily papers in order to point the way for others. They even rented an unused room to the Masons for a while for $100.00 per year. And when they needed a wet nurse and a chambermaid they succeeded in finding one woman to do both jobs.

Early in 1854 they sat down to take a look at the expenses for an entire year. Up to this time they had more or less lived from bill to bill, approving each befores ending it to the steward for payment. To help them get a broader view, they asked the steward to give them a monthly statement of the amount he paid in their behalf. They found that expenses for the family, (averaging thirty-two for the year) had been about $200.00 per month. The matron’s salary was $1.00 per day plus the board of three children; servants were each paid 12 shillings a week. Estimate of expenses did not include about $1,200.00 in donations: a barrel of flour, webs of cotton cloth, shoes and stockings and other clothing,and freight on a carload of wood.

They were a bit defensive of this record. The minutes note that the amount might seem large to those who had not seen the family. Most of the children were under six; they ordinarily arrived “naked, filthy, and diseased,”needing “great care, labor and nursing” to “bring them within the pale of civilization.” Perhaps looking at a year’s record led to the request that the Matron keep, not bind out, the first girl of “such size as to be serviceable” for household chores.

Then for the first time, the Directresses appointed their own Treasurer to”draw and disburse to the different committees all the” money for the uses of the Asylum.” A little later, when funds again were nearly exhausted, they asked the Trustees to meet with them to devise measures for the annual budget as well as to suggest ways out of the immediate dilemma.

By 1860 a pattern of operations had emerged; it varied little up to the turn of the century. One committee screened the applicants and also placed children for service or adoption. Within the orphanage, other committees scrutinized the housekeeping and the maintenance of building and grounds. Others focused on the health and the education of the children. And everybody raised money. Growing numbers in the family, crises like the Civil War and the Great Fire of 1871 led to new policies and changed the emphasis at times, but basically the Trustees and Directresses carried on as they had begun.

Next: Children of Circumstance: Part II