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Guide to the Records of the Children's Aid Society
1836-2006 (bulk 1853-1947)
 MS 111

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Cherie Acierno and Alegria Barclay (2009), Larry Weimer (2018)

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 26, 2018
Description is in English.
using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the historical records of the Children's Aid Society (CAS). The charitable organization was founded in New York City in 1853 to aid, educate, and provide lodging for poor children in the city, and/or to place them in foster homes or with employers outside of the city. The records relate to the CAS lodging houses, industrial schools, convalescent homes, health centers, farm schools, and, especially, the emigration programs ("orphan train") which operated during the period 1853-1947. The collection also includes material such as minutes and financial reports from 1948-1970 and annual reports to 2006. A large portion of the collection consists of case files from the emigration program which are restricted and need special permission to be viewed. Materials most represented in the collection are reports, bound volumes, photographs, and correspondence, among other material types.

The collection is arranged in 15 series, according to subject matter and/or type of material. It is contained in 994 archival boxes and two oversize boxes, as well as 807 bound volumes. Portions of the collection have been digitized and can be viewed on flickr.

"Orphan Train" and Farm School Records: The records of the CAS programs which placed children in homes outside of the city constitute the bulk of the collection. These records may be found in Series XI, box numbers 45-971 and volumes 362-473.  Boxes 56-971 are restricted and need special permission to be viewed. Many of the volumes in this series are also restricted. Restricted volumes are noted in the container list. Boxes 45-971 include the case files and correspondence of foster or adopted children sent to the country, and of boys who had completed the CAS farm school program and who were then placed on farms for wages. (The case files for both paid and unpaid placements were kept together by the CAS). Non-restricted materials in this series include correspondence from children from before the CAS began keeping case files (boxes 45-55), a small number of broadsides, pamphlets, and reports, and some volumes. Other unrestricted material from the Emigration/Placing-Out program can be found in the photographs in Series XIII. The facilities series, Series IX, also has a significant percentage of records from the farm schools where boys were trained before they were placed in the country.

CAS Facilities Records: Although the records of the placing-out programs constitute the bulk of the collection, the collection also includes a substantial amount of material produced by the lodging houses, medical department and convalescent homes run by the CAS, and a smaller amount of material on the industrial schools and camps operated by the society. Materials related to CAS facilities include narrative registers which tell the stories of people taken in by the CAS, statistical record books which provide precise intake numbers and data about those who passed through CAS facilities, and brochures and pamphlets produced by the facilities or programs. These materials support research on the lives and experiences of poor, immigrant, sick, or homeless children, and young men and women in the city from 1853-1930s.

Photographic Prints and Tintypes: The collection includes a significant number of vintage photographs and tintypes. Photographic materials include 2 boxes of photographs of companies of children sent to the country together, 3 boxes of photographs of farm school boys, and 4 boxes of photographs documenting activities in CAS industrial schools, lodging houses, summer camps, and convalescent homes. The CAS hired photographers, including Lewis Hine, to take these photographs for annual reports, brochures and other CAS public relations purposes, between the years 1893-1930's (bulk 1911-1931). Hired photographers also made portraits of CAS officers and trustees, and portraits of children to represent the type of child the CAS helped. Additional portraits among the photographs include thousands of formal portraits and snapshots in the case files, and in 2 boxes of duplicate photographs removed from the case files.

Business and Organizational Records: 517 bound volumes and 13 boxes contain the business, financial and fund-raising records of the CAS. These materials include ledgers; correspondence accompanying donations; appeals, pamphlets, brochures and invitations sent to donors; and records related to donations and other income, and payroll and other expenditures. The materials support research into the business of running a major charitable organization from 1853-circa 1960.

The collection includes Minutes of the Board of Trustees from 1853 to 1970 (except for late 1963 through 1965, which are missing), Annual Reports from 1853 to 2006, and founding, organizational, and constitutional documents. It includes a relatively small and incomplete selection of executive correspondence, and small quantities of legal and real estate documents. It includes a strong number of reports and articles composed for the public, public addresses and radio speeches, as well as reports submitted to supervisory and other agencies, documenting the work of the CAS. The annual reports and other reports provide a window onto the way the CAS perceived and articulated its mission and communicated its accomplishments, and the ways the mission changed over time.

Other materials and Notable Materials: The collection includes several diaries written by nineteenth century agents of the CAS documenting their encounters with poor children in New York City and the earliest days of the CAS's operation. There are also some memoirs and historical sketches by CAS employees relating their experiences in retrospect.

The collection includes photocopied newspaper clippings organized by year and by subject.

Unusual or notable items in the collection include broadsides and pamphlets from the "orphan train" emigration/placing out program (Series XI), architectual drawings by Calvert Vaux, who designed many Children's Aid Society buildings (Series VIII), diaries by agents of the CAS who found and visited needy children and intervened to help them (Series V), vintage photographic prints of groups ("companies") of children sent to the country together as part of the emigration/placing-out program (Series XIII.5), vintage photographic prints of Children's Aid Society programs and facilities (Series XIII.2-3), amateur minstrel show programs from the Newsboys' Lodging House (Series IX) along with other pamphlets and materials from Children's Aid Society lodging houses, industrial schools, farm schools and convalescent homes, and volumes describing the activities of those facilities in both narrative and statistical form (Series IX and X).

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in 15 series.

Please see individual series descriptions for additional subdivision into subseries. Materials are arranged chronologically within each series, subseries, or sub-subseries.

Series

  1. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1853-1963, 1966-1970
  2. Certificates of Incorporation, Constitution, and Other Organizational Records, 1854-1936 (bulk 1854-1899)
  3. Reports, 1853-2006 (bulk 1853-1942)
  4. Officers and Trustees of the CAS - Correspondence and Other Materials, 1853-1959
  5. Diaries, Memoirs, and Historical Sketches by CAS Employees, circa 1853-circa 1980's
  6. Financial and Fund-Raising Records, 1853-1949
  7. Legal Records, circa 1861-1925
  8. VIII - Real Estate Records, circa 1869-1964
  9. Facilities Records: Industrial Schools, Lodging Houses, Summer Camps, and Farm Schools, 1854-1972 and undated (bulk 1854-1958)
  10. Convalescent Facilities and Medical Programs, 1885-1965
  11. Records of the Children's Emigration, Placing-Out, and Foster Home Programs, 1853-2006 (bulk 1853-1939) (some records restricted)
  12. Records of Other CAS Programs and Services, 1874-1947
  13. Photographs, 1890-circa 1960
  14. Newspaper Clippings and Articles from Periodicals, circa 1854-circa 1984
  15. Materials Produced by Other Organizations, circa 1836-circa 1934