Building the Invisible Orphanage: A Prehistory of the American Welfare System

By Matthew A. Crenson | Go to book overview

3
Two Dimensions of Institutional Change

AT THE DAWN of the Gilded Age, seemed plausible to suggest that the City of New York faced imminent revolution. For some Americans at least, the diffuse anxieties of the Jacksonian period had congealed into a dread of the "dangerous classes." Charles Loring Brace, founder of the New York Children's Aid Society, helped to popularize the term. He did not use it to refer to radicalized proletarians. Instead, the members of Brace's dangerous class were scarcely more than children -- "a great multitude of ignorant, untrained, passionate, irreligious boys and young men." They had revealed their capacity for violence and destruction during the Draft Riots of 1863 and the Orange Riot of 1871, but Brace believed that their potential for social insurgency extended far beyond the lawlessness of these brief convulsions: "It has been common, since the recent terrible Communistic outbreak in Paris, to assume that France alone is exposed to such horrors; but, in the judgment of one who has been familiar with our 'dangerous classes' for twenty years, there are just the same explosive social elements beneath the surface of New York as of Paris." 1

Not every observer of urban mayhem saw the revolutionary menace of the Paris Commune in the city's young people, but many recognized the existence of a distinctly juvenile threat to public order. Reflecting on the "memorable riots of July, 1863," the officers of the New York Juvenile Asylum noted that "the pioneers of the surging mobs were, in

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Building the Invisible Orphanage: A Prehistory of the American Welfare System
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Decline of the Orphanage and the Invention of Welfare 7
  • 2 - The Institutional Inclination 37
  • 3 - Two Dimensions of Institutional Change 61
  • 4 - Institutional Self-Doubt and Internal Reform 92
  • 5 - From Orphanage to Home 113
  • 6 - The Orphanage Reaches Outward 147
  • 7 - "The Unwalled Institution of the State" 171
  • 8 - The Perils of Placing Out 202
  • 9 - "The Experiment of Having No Home" 227
  • 10 - Mobilizing for Mothers' Pensions 246
  • 11 - Religious Wars 284
  • Conclusion: An End to the Orphanage 306
  • Notes 333
  • Index 375
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