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Normoyle/Normiles in the United States

Sanitary Living Conditions in New York City

Huddled Masses: Immigration and Urban America
George Waring, Sanitary Conditions in New York (1897)

Before 1895 the streets were almost universally in a filthy state. In wet weather they were covered with slime, and in dry weather the air was filled with dust. Artificial sprinkling in summer converted the dust into mud, and the drying winds changed the mud to powder. Rubbish of all kinds, garbage, and ashes lay neglected in the streets, and in the hot weather the city stank with the emanations of putrefying organic matter. It was not always possible to see the pavement, because of the dirt that covered it. One expert, a former contractor of street-cleaning, told me that West Broadway could not be cleaned, because it was so coated with grease from wagon-axles; it was really coated with slimy mud. The sewer inlets were clogged with refuse. Dirty paper was prevalent everywhere, and black rottenness was seen and smelled on every hand.

The practice of standing unharnessed trucks and wagons in the public streets was well­nigh universal in all except the main thoroughfares and the better residence districts. The Board of Health made an enumeration of vehicles so standing on Sunday, counting twenty-five thousand on a portion of one side of the city; they reached the conclusion that there were in all more than sixty thousand. These trucks not only restricted traffic and made complete street-cleaning practically impossible, but they were harbors of vice and crime. Thieves and highwaymen made them their dens, toughs caroused in them, both sexes resorted to them, and they were used for the vilest purposes, until they became, both figuratively and literally, a stench in the nostrils of the people. In the crowded districts they were a veritable nocturnal hell. Against all this the poor people were powerless to get relief. The highest city officials, after feeble attempts at removal, declared that New York was so peculiarly constructed (having no alleys through which the rear of the lots could be reached) that its commerce could not be carried on unless this privilege were given to its truckmen; in short, the removal of the trucks was "an impossibility" . . .

The condition of the streets, of the force, and of the stock was the fault of no man and of no set of men. It was the fault of the system. The department was throttled by partisan control-so throttled it could neither do good work, command its own respect and that of the public, nor maintain its material in good order. It was run as an adjunct of a political organization. In that capacity it was a marked success. It paid fat tribute; it fed thousands of voters, and it gave power and influence to hundreds of political leaders. It had this appointed function, and it performed it well. . . .
New York is now thoroughly clean in every part, the empty vehicles are gone. . . . "Clean streets" means much more than the casual observer is apt to think It has justly been said that "cleanliness is catching," and clean streets are leading to clean hallways and stair cases and cleaner living-rooms. . . .

Few realize the many minor ways in which the work of the department has benefited the people at large. For example, there is far less injury from dust to clothing, to furniture, and to goods in shops; mud is not tracked from the streets on to the sidewalks, and thence into the houses; boots require far less cleaning; the wearing of overshoes has been largely abandoned; wet feet and bedraggled skirts are mainly things of the past; and children now make free use of a playground of streets which were formerly impossible to them. "Scratches," a skin disease of horses due to mud and slush, used to entail very serious cost on truckmen and liverymen. It is now almost unknown. Horses used to "pick up a nail" with alarming frequency, and this caused great loss of service, and, like scratches made the bill of the veterinary surgeon a serious matter. There are practically no nails now to be found in the streets.

The great, the almost inestimable, beneficial effect of the work of the department is showing the large reduction of the death-rate and in the less keenly realized but still more important reduction in the sick-rate. As compared with the average death-rate of 26.78 of 1882-94, that of 1895 was 23.10, that of 1896 was 21.52, and that of the first half of 1897 was 19.63. If this latter figure is maintained throughout the year, there will have been fifteen thousand fewer deaths than there would have been had the average rate of the thirteen previous years prevailed. The report of the Board of Health for 1896, basing its calculations on diarrheal diseases July, August, and September, in the filthiest wards, in the most crowded wards, and in the remainder of the city, shows a very marked reduction in all, and the largest reduction in the first two classes.

From George W. Waring, Jr., Street Cleaning (New York: Doubleday and McClure, 1897), 13-31.



The Sanitary and Moral Condition of New York City

Citation Information:"The Sanitary and Moral Condition of New York City." Catholic World. A Monthly Magazine. v. 9, N. 53. New York: The Catholic Publication House. August, 1869, p. 553-566.



A glance at New York city, embracing the entire of Manhattan Island, will show that its geological position, its advantages for sewerage and drainage, in fact for everything that would make it salubrious and healthy, cannot be surpassed by any city in this or any other country. And still, with its bountiful supply of nature's choicest gifts, many of our readers will be surprised to hear that our death-rate is higher than that of any city on this continent, or any of the larger cities of Europe. We append a table showing the relative per annum mortality in various cities:

  Death Population
New York 1 in 35
London 1 in 45
Paris 1 in 40
Coppenhagen 1 in 36
Christiansund, (Norway) 1 in 40
Liverpool 1 in 44
Philadelphia 1 in 48
Boston 1 in 41
Newark, N. J. 1 in 44
Providence 1 in 45
Hartford 1 in 54
Rochester 1 in 44 [1]

Let us first examine the conditions which favor and cause this excessively high death-rate, and then approximate as nearly as possible what our percentage of mortality should be, under good hygienic regulations.

The primary cause of the present condition is, evidently, in the packing system of the tenant-houses; and how the unfortunates exist in the fetid air and dirt of these dens, it is impossible to imagine. The name tenant-house is applied to all buildings containing three or more families. There are at preset in our city 18,582 of these residences. In these live over a half-million of people, or more than half of our entire population. These houses vary in condition, from the apartments over stores on our prominent thoroughfares, which often contain all the comforts and conveniences of more aristocratic and imposing structures, through many gradations to the cellar, garrets, and model tenant-houses, occupied by the most miserable of our inhabitants. Such an economy of space was never known to be displayed in sheltering cattle as is here shown in the houses, if they can be so called, of the laboring classes. We give a description of one of these establishments, for the benefit of those who have never examined a "model tenant-house." On a lot 25 by 100 feet two buildings are erected, one in the front, the second in the rear. Between the houses is a yard or open space, in which are located rows of stalls to be used as water-closets. The buildings are frequently seven and eight stories high, including basement. Through the middle of each house runs a hall three to four feet wide. On each side of the hall are the apartments as they are termed, more properly coops or dens. There are sometimes three or four sets of these coops to each half, making six or eight families to the floor; and so they are packed, from the cellar to the roof of the establishment. As the term "suites of apartments" is rather deceptive to the uninitiated, we will state this means simply two-one, the common room, where all the cooking, washing, and other family work is performed, and in some instances used additionally for manufacturing purposes, as shoe-making, tailoring, etc.; the other is the sleeping-room. The first is generally 8 feet by 10, and the second 7 by 8, with an average height of 7 feet. "Not unfrequently two families—yea, four families—live in one of these small sets of dens; and in this manner as many as 126 families, numbering over 800 souls, have been packed into one such building, and some of the families taking boarders and lodgers at that. And worse yet, all around such tenements, or in close proximity to them, stand slaughter houses, stables, tanneries, soap factories, and bone-boiling establishments, emitting life-destroying exhalations." [2]

Imagine rows of such houses, so close to each other as to shut out the air and sunlight from their inmates, and you have a picture of the condition of some portions of the lower wards of New York City. Of the 18,582 tenant-houses, Dr. E. B. Dalton, the Sanitary Superintendent, reports "52 per cent in bad sanitary condition, that is, in a condition detrimental to the health and dangerous to the lives of the occupants, and sources of infection to the neighborhood generally; 32 per cent are in this condition purely from overcrowding, accumulations of filth, want of water-supply, and other results of neglect." Dr. E. Harris, the efficient Register of Vital Statistics for the Board of Health, informs us that, although the Fourth ward has given up nearly one half its space for mercantile purposes, it still retains the population it had in 1864. This is effected by driving the poor tenants into smaller space and more miserable dens, which they are obliged to accommodate themselves to, as there is no rapid transportation at their command by which they could reach homes in more salubrious districts, and still retain their employment in this section. The result is, that in some locations the people are packed at the rate of nearly 300,000 to the square mile. Here are congregated the vilest brothels, the lowest dance-houses, and other dens of infamy. It is doubtful if throughout Europe, and certainly in no other part of America, in the same amount of space, so much vice, immorality, pauperism, disease, and fearful depravity could be found, as some of the worst of these locations present daily for our consideration. Our readers must not suppose, from our frequent references to the Fourth ward, that is contains all of this character of trouble existing in New York. This is not the case. In portions of all the wards in the lower part of the island, as well as up-town by either river-side as high as Fiftieth street, will the same condition be found, but not in so concentrated a form as in the Fourth Ward and its immediate surroundings, which has for a long time held the unenviable reputation of being the worst locality on the island.

Practical hygienists give 1000 cubic feet as the standard amount of air-space for each individual. Dr. W. F. Thoms, in his pamphlet on Tenant-Houses, thinking that quantity impracticable in this character of building, gives 700 cubic feet as the minimum in which a person can live and not be injured by the carbonic acid he constantly expires. With many of the 'fever-nests' not more than 300 to 400 feet to the individual are given; and Captain Lord's report shows that in 289 houses the quantity allowed each inmate is only between 100 and 300 cubic feet.

The zymotic or four-air diseases, as they are termed by some, formed 29.36 per cent of our total mortality during last year. [3] Belonging to this class are the diarrhoeal maladies, Asiatic cholera, cholera—morbus, typhoid and typhus fevers, small-pox, measles, scarlet fever, and others of this kind; also the dietetic disorders, inanition, scurvy, etc. It will be readily seen that, in such locations as are above described, a very large proportion of the mortality from this class must arise. Consumption also, which might properly be termed the constant scourge of the human family, assists largely in running up our death-table. The late Archbishop Hughes, in speaking of this disease, said "it was the natural death of the Irish emigrant in this county." This remark is equally true of persons coming from all other countries, partially on account of foreigners not being acclimated to the vicissitudes of our climate, but more particularly because so many of them dwell in damp, leaky shanties, or in cellars which are frequently below the level of high water. Here the seeds of the disease are planted by which the miserable victims of hectic fever, night-sweats, and other attendant evils are hurried to their untimely graves. In the fifteen months ending December 31st, 1867, 4123 persons died in our city of this disease. The largest number of these were between the ages of 25 and 40. One thousand seven hundred and sixty-five were natives of Ireland, 1430 were Americans, 600 Germans, and 328 from other foreign counties.

Upon the infants, however, of these polluted districts death fastens his relentless grasp, and from their ranks under the age of five years he claimed last year over one half the entire mortality of the city. The blood of these innocents is poisoned from birth by the noxious influences of bad air and adulterated food; consequently their nutrition is defective, and the majority of them are found frail, puny, and miserable. In this condition they are little able to stand the irritation attendant upon the process of dentition, and during this period a large number of them rapidly sink from diarrhoea, marasmus, or some kindred disorder.

Seven thousand four hundred and ninety-four of these little ones died last year under twelve months of age. This is supposed to be little less than one fourth of all the infants born alive during the same period. Is it not enough to send a thrill of horror to the breast of every mother, to think that one out of every four infants born, must perish before it reaches its first birthday?

"This is well known to be twice too high a death-rate for the first year of infant life, and experience demonstrates, that the infant death-rate is a safe index of the general rate of mortality, both in the total population and in the adults of any city or district. That is, if in the Sixth ward we find a high death-rate in children, and if it is vastly higher than that in the children of the Fifteenth ward, then we shall find (as we actually have found) that the death-rate is excessively high in the total number of adult inhabitants of the Sixth, while there is a very low death-rate in the Fifteenth that buries the smallest percentage of its infants." [4] An easy solution to this is found in the greater susceptibility of early infancy from extreme delicacy of formation. Just as the accurate thermometer indicates immediately every change in the temperature, so these frail organizations blight first under detrimental influences, before the more matured portion of the population are perceptibly affected by the same causes. The following will strikingly elucidate the greater expectation for human life to persons living in even comparatively salubrious districts. The death-rate in the Fourth ward, in 1863, was about 1 in 25 of the population; in the Fifteenth, in the same year, it was 1 in 60.

Why should this wide difference in the mortality exist in two section of the same city adjacent to each other? The reason is obvious: there are but few of the densely over-crowded tenant-houses in the Fifteenth or healthy ward, while the Fourth presents a population of nearly 20,000 souls packed in these buildings. Thus it is shown that persons living in the Fifteenth ward, have two and a half times more chances for life than those residing in the Fourth.

The all-important question to the social economist now recurs: What is the necessary or inevitable mortality of the total population of this city? We cannot do better than refer to the mortality above given for the Fifteenth ward, which is I in 60. Why is it not practicable to bring our sanitary regulations to such perfection as to reduce the mortality of the entire city to near this standard? Thus we would save many lives, now sacrificed by diseases which we have the power in a great measure to control; and we would lessen the general death-rate of the city to between 16,000 and 17,000 to the 1,000,000 instead of ranging, as it now does, from 23,000 to 26,000 to the same amount of population.

To look at this fearful drain of human life is painful enough; but the moral aspect of the subject will be found even more deplorable. The constant inhalation of vitiated air lowers the vitality and poisons the entire organism, and, as a natural consequence, predisposes these unfortunates to a continual desire for stimulation. This, in fact, is a manifestation of nature, which, by a wise dispensation of Providence, when depressed or disordered from any cause, has a constant tendency toward health. They, however, do not appreciate that pure air, cleanliness, and substantial food would quench this natural longing; but they seek that which is more gratifying to their depraved appetites; as for the time being it steals their reason and blunts their sensibility to present misery. These facts account to a great extent for the large number of rum-holes found in the neighborhood of these tenant rookeries, which is reported in certain localities to be one for less than every two houses. Many of these low groggeries are so disgustingly filthy, and their poisonous compounds so corrupting of every moral feeling, that they can properly be placed on an equality with the despicable Chinese opium-dens found in the neighborhood of Whitechapel in London. The following figures demonstrate the immense number of votaries who frequent drinking-saloons in this city, and the vast sums of money squandered annually in these degrading haunts: "There are at present 5203 licensed rum-shops in New York; 697,202 persons visit these daily, 4,183,212 in a week, and 218,224,226 in a year. The total amount of money paid out for drinks across the bar and at the drinking-tables of the liquor-shops of New York is $736,280.59 a week, or $38,286,590.68 a year." [5] This is the account of the licensed bar-rooms: how many unlicensed ones exist it is impossible to know. When we consider that the highest estimate made of our population gives us only 1,000,000 of inhabitants, the foregoing figures certainly are astounding, and deserve most earnest consideration. In connection with this subject, it will be interesting to examine the annals of crime for the past year. There were 80,532 arrests [6] made during the twelve months ending October 31st, 1867. These embrace offences of every grade, from petty larceny to murder. The number of the latter is 59, or an average of more than one a week. This total number of criminals amounts to nearly one twelfth of our entire population, and certainly shows a very low grade of morals in our community. It would be most interesting to know what proportion of these criminals date the commencement of their career in crime, from the time they began to drink intoxicating liquors.

One of the saddest features in our city is the condition of the homeless children. "The number of these between the ages of five and fifteen years is stated to be 200,000 of which not more than 75,000 attend Sunday-school, leaving the vast number of 125,000 of our children unreached and uncared for, of which it has been estimated that nearly 40,000 are vagrant children." [7] "Hundreds of these children are confirmed drunkards, and thousands of them are accustomed to strong drink. Children from the age of fourteen years down to infants of four are daily met in a state of intoxication. They come drunk to the mission-schools. The little creatures have many a time lain stretched upon the benches of this institution, (Howard Mission,) sleeping off their debauch. Hundreds of them have become veteran thieves, and thousand more are in training for the same end. Nine hundred and sixty girls and 3,958 boys, between the ages of ten and fifteen years—making a total of 4618—were arrested during the year ending October 31st, 1867, for drunkenness and petty crimes." [8]

The arrests for the same period between the ages of ten and twenty years amounts to the fearful number of 13,660. Is it not melancholy to contemplate these little creatures, "made to the image and likeness of God," allowed to develop in such haunts of crime, every faculty as soon as awakened blunted by the atmosphere of sin surrounding them? If not rescued from their fate at an early age, we know they are the embryo criminals who will in the future fill our prisons and grace our scaffolds. How can it be otherwise? Nurtured in a hot-bed of crime from infancy, educated in pilfering and beggary in childhood, it is but human that they should develop these accomplishments in rank luxuriance as they grow to manhood. It seems strange that Mr. Bergh's attention has never been drawn to the condition of the miserable tenants and the homeless children. He and the rest of his society take every means to remedy the complaints of ill-used quadrupeds; but unfortunate biped humanity may be stalled in filthy dens with imperfect drainage and no ventilation, or, the little ones starve and die on our thoroughfares, without finding a humanitarian to raise a voice in their behalf. It is true, our cattle should be cared for, but a just God will demand at our hands some protection for his poor.

"He has said—his truths are all eternal—
What he said both has been and shall be—
What ye have not done to these my poor ones,
Lo! ye have not done it unto me. [9]

The radical relief for the evils growing out of the tenant-house system can only be reached by, first, condemning and tearing down the worst class of these buildings; and, secondly, remodelling those which, by their construction, are susceptible of such improvement as will insure the inmates at least the blessings of sunshine and pure air.

These stringent measures are unfortunately, for the present, impracticable, as, should they be carried into effect, two thirds of the inhabitants of these dens would be thrown upon the streets without shelter. Space must be found adjacent to the city where neat and comfortable cottages can be built for the laboring classes, and transportation of such character provided as will enable them to reach these abodes in as little time and at as small an expense as it now consumes to get to their tenant dwellings. The beautiful shores on the opposite sides of the Hudson and East rivers must eventually be dotted by the villages of these working people. It has been reported that a very wealthy gentleman of our community proposes building a number of such houses somewhere in the vicinity of New York. To be the projector of such a philanthropic enterprise would entitle him to the love and admiration of the people now, while in after-years it would be pointed out as a monument of his generosity to the struggling poor. The proposed "Hudson Highland Bridge," the "East River Bridge," and the tunnel under the East River, all of which, we hope, will be pressed rapidly to completion, will form the first of the links which are to bind our Island City to the surrounding rural districts. The location where the first will span the Hudson is near Fort Montgomery, in the Highlands; the second is intended to connect the lower part of the city with Brooklyn; and the iron tubular tunnel is, as its name indicates, a wrought-iron tunnel, to be laid at the bottom of the East River; it also is to connect Brooklyn with New York. In a sanitary point of view, we think these proposed means for rapid communication between our island and the neighboring country vie in importance with the gigantic enterprise which gives us the water of the Croton river for our daily consumption, and the Central Park for the recreation and amusement of our pent-up population. Over the East River Bridge it is intended to run cars by an endless wire rope, worked by an engine under the flooring on the Brooklyn side. The minimum rate of speed is put down as twenty miles an hour. It is such travelling facilities as these structures will afford which are necessary to enable the workingmen to reach healthful and salubrious homes outside of the metropolis. We would thus be able to disgorge the immense surplus of population which it is impossible for us to accommodate in our midst.

But while we keep in our minds as the great ultimatum which will eventually relieve us, we must in the mean time use every effort in our power to ameliorate as much as possible the misery surrounding us.

Since the establishment of the Board of Health, in March, 1866, strenuous efforts have been made by that body to remedy the most glaring defects in the tenant-houses. Nothing could bear better evidence of the good results effected by the wise sanitary measures they have adopted than the saving in our mortality rates during the last year. It has been asserted that "our present code of health laws are better than those of any other city on this planet;" and had the commissioners, in the execution of these laws, been sustained in their laudable efforts for the public good by the courts of justice, no doubt much more would have been effected. The Sanitary Superintendent, Dr. E. B. Dalton, reports 35,045 inspections made during the last year; 11,414 of these were in tenement-houses, 11,473 to yards, cellars, waste-pipes, etc.; the remainder, to private dwellings, slaughter-houses, establishments for tar-melting and bone-boiling, stables, piggeries, etc. This amount of visitations by the sanitary inspectors sows great activity in their department, and entitles them to much credit. The evils, however, attending the entire of the present systems are so numerous that, without a good deal of active legislation it is to be feared the root of the trouble cannot be reached. In the first place, no persons should be allowed, in the future, to build a house to be occupied by more than three or four families, without its plan of construction being first officially approved of by an appointed superintendent. This would confine the sanitary evils, so far as the internal arrangement of tenements are concerned, to those we now have; and, in the second place, as Dr. Dalton suggests, the erection of a front and rear tenement on the same lot should be strictly prohibited. The importance of these means cannot be overestimated. In addition, many changes apparently slight in themselves can be effected in the existing houses, which would materially add to the comfort and chances of life of the inmates. Miss F. Nightingale says: "It is a fact demonstrated by statistics, that in the improved dwellings the mortality has fallen in certain cases from 25 to 14 per 1000; and that in the common 'lodging-houses,' which have been hot-beds of epidemics, such diseases have almost disappeared through the adoption of sanitary measures." One condition probably more pregnant with disease to the tenants than almost any other is, that so large a percentage of the water-closets in the tenant buildings are not connected with the regular sewers. The consequence is, these places become choked up with accumulations of filth, and give forth noisome and offensive odors, most detrimental to health. This alone is sufficient to cause a large amount of the diarrhoeal diseases which pervade our community during the hot season with such fatal results. The inspector of the Fourth Sanitary District, for the Citizens' Association, in 1864, reported "less than 30 per cent of the privies in his district as being connected with drains or sewers." He also says: "There is a section of my district, embracing at least nine blocks, in every part of which the peculiar odor arising from privies is always distinctly perceptible during the summer months. From this region fever is never absent. I refer to typhus and typhoid, for intermittent and remittent fever do not prevail in this neighborhood, even in the low tract adjoining the river. Such a gently fiend as paludal miasma flies affrighted from the terrific phantoms of disease that reign supreme in this domain of pestilence." The landlords who grind the last cent of rent possible from their tenants should be obliged, at least, to do all in their power to preserve them from palpable occasions of disease. At a small expense in comparison to the income this class of property yields, the proper connections with the sewers could be made, and thus much suffering avoided.

One great trouble the sanitarian encounters is, the disinclination of a large portion of this class to adopt habits of cleanliness. They seem actually to riot in and be proud of their filthy surroundings. And their example is unfortunately contagious, as it is known frequently to be the case that where neat, clean, and respectable families are thrown in contact with them, they, too, soon degenerate into the same condition. "It would be true of many thousands that, if left to the uncontrolled indulgence of their reckless and filthy habits, they would convert a palace into a pig-sty, and create 'fever-nests' and hot-beds of vice and corruption under circumstances most favorable to health, comfort, and social elevation." [10] This fact, although discouraging, should be but a greater incentive to keep constantly over them a vigilant sanitary inspection, to show them the baneful effects of their habits of living, and to cause a spirit of emulation to assist themselves in purifying their homes and surroundings. This can be done. Their "reckless and filthy habits" are, in many instances, but the indication of a lowered moral and physical status, the result of the poverty, starvation, and misery they have endured. A little encouragement, and a constant stimulation as to the right means to be adopted, would soon cause many of them to overcome their vitiated and depraved tastes.

These combined facts, we think, necessitate a thorough house to house examination of all this character of property in the city, by competent sanitary persons, so that the Sanitary Superintendent may know the exact condition of each tenement. With such knowledge many advantageous improvements could be made and many nuisances abated, without waiting for a report from either the occupants or sanitary police, as is now done. This action is at present rendered more essential as the summer is coming on, and under the influence of its long, hot days the animal and vegetable decomposition will make the air putrid with its "life-destroying exhalations." Our death-rate from the diarrhoeal, and other miasmatic diseases, will, as usual, run up to the highest mark; and should cholera get a foothold in the city, it is questionable if it could be controlled by the Health Commissioners as readily as it was in the summer of 1866.

The question, how to deal wisely with the abuse of alcoholic stimulants, has been earnestly discussed and considered by the press, by municipal and legislative bodies, from the pulpit, and also by countless temperance associations, without reaching a solution of this great problem. Philanthropic efforts are constantly made to stop the tide of self-destruction without avail; and the originators of such movements seem all to arrive at the conclusion that it is impossible to thoroughly restrain the appetite for strong drinks by any character of laws which may be enacted. The only resource that remains is to throw around the trade such restrictions as will confine it to its narrowest limits. This is to be affected not alone by legislative enactments, but also by a moral and religious influence. Public opinion has great weight, and every man who loves the well-being of his race should frown down this social evil to the utmost of his power. Ministers of the gospel should persistently teach the enormity of the ills resulting, as they alone fully know, from this cause.

A great many persons think the present laws have no influence in restraining drunkenness, and that as much liquor is consumed now as formerly. As a proof of their efficacy, we will give here a portion of a table, taken from the report of the Excise Commissioners for last year, comparing the number of arrests for offences actually resulting from excessive indulgence in intoxicating drinks on Sundays, when the rum-sellers were obliged to keep their glittering shops closed the entire day, and Tuesdays, when the prohibition applied only to before sunrise.

Month Year Days Arrests
March, 1867 5 Sundays, 210
" " 4 Tuesdays, 471
April, " 4 Sundays, 195
" " 5 Tuesdays, 489
May, " 4 Sundays, 123
" " 4 Tuesdays, 380

As it is well known that before the enaction of these laws the arrests on Sunday far exceeded those of any other day in the week, this should convince the most sceptical of the effect of the Sunday prohibition.

The estimated number of vagrant children in this city is nearly 40,000. Forty thousand immortal beings floating, day by day, toward physical and moral destruction! Throw aside all the dictates of Christianity, and look upon these children in the future. According to our free institutions, they will have the same amount of control over the destinies of the nation as our own offspring, although the latter may be thoroughly educated to make good and intelligent citizens. Here we are allowing to be nurtured the element which, in the riots of 1863, threatened to deluge the length and breadth of the island with tumult, conflagration, and bloodshed. Every year, with the constantly increasing tide of emigration, new material is added to develop this character at a more rapid rate. Such being the case, self-protection demands that something be done to give these children homes and draw them from the pollution surrounding them. In the lower portion of the city, there are some institutions, intended particularly to take care of these little vagrants, and they form the only breakwater to this torrent of infantile depravity. The first of these is the Five Points Mission. This was established under "An Act," passed in March, 1856, by the Senate and Assembly of the State of New York, "to incorporate the Ladies' Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church." The intentions of the ladies forming this association are shown in the second paragraph of the above-named act, and reads: "The objects of said society are, to support one or more missionaries, to labor among the poor of the city of New York, especially in the locality known as the 'Five Points;' to provide food, clothing, and other necessaries for such poor; to educate poor children and provide for their comfort and welfare; and, for that purpose, to maintain a school at the Five Points, in said city, and to perform kindred acts of charity and benevolence." The "Old Brewery," a most notorious den of infamy, just at the Five Points, was selected by the association as headquarters for their missionary labors; and to gather round them here the little ones of this worst location of the city, to be fed, clothed, and instructed in the rudimentary English branches, as well as the Methodist Episcopal faith, became a labor of love. This enterprise prospered, and now, in place of the "Old Brewery," stands a large, commodious mission-building. A peculiar feature in the management is, that entire families are taken in, and given work of some kind to do, so that it forms a character of tenant-house. The institution contains some 18 families, including between 60 and 70 children. One thousand and nineteen children have been taught during the year in the day-school. Immediately opposite and facing this is the second of these institutions, the "Five Points House of Industry." This was established under the supervision of the same gentleman who at first had control of the Five Points Mission, the Rev. L. M Pease. Through some misunderstanding, he withdrew from the mission and founded the House of Industry. His beginning was very small, and consisted of an effort to obtain work for a number of unhappy females who desired to escape from their criminal way of living. His next step was the establishment of a day-school; soon afterward men and women were employed in making shoes, baskets, etc. The success of the enterprise was quickly assured, and it rapidly enlarged its sphere of usefulness. Some time since, the manufacturing of baskets, shoes, etc., was given up, and it is now simply a house of refuge, where homeless children are educated, fed, and clothed. During the winter, a meal was given, in the middle of the day, to destitute adults. One of the gentlemen informed us that 325 men and women partook of this meal daily during the cold weather. The average number of children given three meals was also 325, making 1300 meals given by this institution daily. The whole number of children taught here during the last year was 1289. An interesting feature connected with this enterprise is the boarding-house which has recently been established for working girls. A large tenement-house was bought, and fitted up in the most complete manner; and here homeless working girls can get good, substantial board for three dollars and a quarter a week. This is of great advantage to these poor young women, who are overworked at meagre pay, and enables them to live for about one half the price they would be obliged to pay for board in a respectable lodging-house. In the internal arrangements, everything is done to add to the comfort as well as the mental improvement of the inmates. In the public parlor there are an organ and a piano, also several sewing-machines. These are at the disposal of any one in the house, at all times. Two evenings in the week they have night-school. The Germans teach their language in exchange for English. The matron states: "Through the kindness of some publishers, we have 5 daily papers, 12 weeklies, and 4 monthlies. Three daily German papers are sent us; also a German magazine, published at Leipsic, Germany." Some six years ago, the third of the houses for this special work was established at No. 40 New Bowery, by the Rev. W. E. Van Meter. The Howard Mission (as this establishment is called) far exceeds the House of Industry in its internal appearance. The latter, with its massive bare walls and iron gratings resembles more a prison for culprits than a home for little ones. The former, to the contrary, is built with a desire to surround the children with everything that can please and attract them. The assistant superintendent remarked to us that "their wish had been to make their mission home more beautiful and enticing than any saloon could be." The two large halls are neatly finished and artistically adorned. In the lower one, through the benevolence of a gentleman, a fountain is constantly playing, several hanging baskets of moss and evergreens swing from the ceiling, and at the base of the fountain is a pretty reservoir containing gold-fish. This institution has received, in six years, 7581 children; and the March number of the Little Wanderers' Friend, published by this house, states that "for this month (February) 619 children have been fed at its tables, clothed from its wardrobes, and taught in its schools." These houses all have their regular religious services, morning, noon and night, with Sunday-schools, singing, and prayer-meetings. On Sunday mornings, the prisoners from some of the station-houses, under arrest for disorder and drunkenness the night previous, are taken to the Howard Mission, and furnished with coffee and bread, and then, before leaving, they have a religious discourse preached to them. In addition, these houses have regular visitors, who call at the homes of those making complaints, to assist and comfort the sick, and, at the same time, to find out if the statements given by them are correct. In order that those not familiar with the workings of such institutions may see the charitable work these ladies effect, we extract the first two items from the visitors' diary in the April number of the Monthly Record of the Five Points House of Industry, 1866:

"Called on Mrs. L———, Irish Catholic; is a widow with two small boys; tells me she cannot get enough work to support the family; would be willing to sew, wash, pick hair, or any of the various female employments, if she could get it. We offered to feed and clothe her boys if she would send them to our school, which she readily promised.

"Visited Mrs. G———, 31 M——— street, Irish Catholic. She lives in a small attic room, rear building; is a widow, with one child; has been but a few days out of the hospital; found her little girl sick with fever; promised to send a doctor and give her necessary assistance."

Although these institutions re doing something by their work to alleviate the condition of a portion of this vast army of 40,000 stray waifs, still it is most evident that they are utterly inadequate to provide for more than a small fraction of this number. It is well known that nearly one half the population of this city profess to be members of the Roman Catholic religion; and, to show the great excess of persons belonging to this church among the lower classes in our city, we extract the following analysis of a block of buildings from the Little Wanderers' Friend for March, 1868: "Fifty-nine old buildings occupied by 382 families, in which are 2 Welsh, 7 Portuguese, 9 English, 10 Americans, 12 French, 39 negroes, 186 Italians, 189 Polanders, 218 Germans, and 812 Irish. Of these 113 are Protestants, 287 Jews, and 1062 Roman Catholics."

The Catholic Reformatory in Westchester county, established by the late Dr. Ives, is doing everything possible for the children under its control; but the little vagrants, unless arrested for some petty crime and thus committed to that institution, are not within reach of its benefits.

The Rev. F. H. Farrelly, the pastor of St. James's church, has labored most zealously during the last three years in the cause of the Catholic children in his immediate vicinity. He has established a poor-school in the basement of his church, under the charge of the Sisters of Charity. The average daily attendance here is 200, and these are furnished with a meal at noon, in order to facilitate their remaining in the institution the entire day. During the year, two suits of clothing are furnished to as many as the good father's means will permit. This school will be removed to the very elegant five-story mission-house, now nearly completed, on the corner of James street and New Bowery. This structure is of brick with free-stone trimmings, and has a front of 111 feet on New Bowery, and 83 feet on James street. It will be divided into 21 class-rooms. This enterprise will take more means for its support than St. James's parish can possible furnish, and it deserves and should have the sympathy and pecuniary assistance of all Catholics.

It is impossible to calculate the amount of good to be effected by the establishment of a large home, under the supervision of the Sisters of Charity or Mercy in this location. These good ladies are peculiarly adapted to care for the wants of the poor, the sick, and the afflicted, as they devote all their energies, according to the intention of their institution, to these classes of society. And why? Because simply in so doing they fulfil the wishes of "The Master." Thus their mission is one of love, and to strictly attend to duty the greatest pleasure of their lives. This is the solution of their great success in the management of hospitals, schools, and charitable institutions; and the large number of their magnificent edifices devoted to these purposes, found throughout almost every portion of the known world, attest the success with which God blesses their labors. To these good sisters the poor emigrants could appeal, without even apparently denying their religion, for a little sustenance to keep their miserable bodies from perishing; the sorrow—burdened could communicate their troubles, confident of a ready sympathy; and to these the homeless little vagrant could come, knowing a mother's tender love and gentle forbearance awaited him. In the home a room should be devoted to the use of mothers—a place where they could leave their babes to be fed and taken care of for the day. This would enable poor widows to do washing and other kinds of work, and thus many could support their families who are now entirely dependent upon public charity. In addition to the home, a large farm should be procured near the city, where the children taken permanently under the care of the institution could be raised and educated. This is advisable, because, in the first place, it would be more economical, and secondly, experience demonstrates that a large body of children do not thrive well in such establishments when located in cities. We feel confident there would be no trouble supporting this home, as the great Catholic heart always responds liberally to appeals made for the poor, and in this institution the weight of the burden should be equally borne by all the Catholics in the city. In addition to all this, to take care of these little wanderers is a matter of great import in the light of political economy. They form the fountain-head from which a large proportion of our criminals are developed. If they could be made useful members of society, it would relive the city of a large proportion of the taxation which is now necessary to support our various prisons; and the energy now shown in the commission of crime would become a source of material wealth to the country.

There is one other subject we wish to mention before concluding this paper: it is, the condition of the night-lodgers at the station-houses. Form the report of the Board of Metropolitan Police, we find that 105,460 persons were accommodated with lodgings at the various precincts during the last twelve months. Mr. S. C. Hawley, the very accommodating chief clerk of this department, informs us that the number this year will be much greater. Over 100,000 sought refuge in the station-houses, glad to obtain the bare floor to rest their weary limbs; but how many pace our streets nightly, poverty-stricken and despairing, but too proud to seek a shelter in these abodes of crime! It is a stigma on the fair fame of this great city that, throughout its length and breadth, there is not one refuge, established by religious or philanthropic efforts, where the homeless can find shelter from the wintry night blasts.

"Our beasts and our thieves and our chattels
Have weight for good or for ill;
But the poor are only his image,
His presence, his word, his will;
And so Lazarus lies at our doorstep,
And Dives neglects him still." [11]

In Montreal, Canada, refuges are connected with the church property, and are superintended by the female religious orders, we think more particularly by the Gray Nuns. In 1860, the Providence Row Night Refuge was established in London, under the care of the Sisters of Mercy. There is no distinction made as regards religious creed, and the only requisites necessary for admission are, to be homeless and of good character. Before retiring, a half-pound of bread and a basin of gruel are given to each lodger, and the same in the morning, before they are allowed to commence another day's efforts to obtain work. What charity could so directly appeal to our hearts as this? Think how many men and women arrive daily in this metropolis, in search of employment! For days they eagerly seek it without success, hoarding their scanty means to the uttermost. Finally the time comes when the last dime is spent for bread, and they wander along, their hearts filled with dread, as night covers the earth with her sable mantle, knowing not whither they shall turn their weary steps. Think of the poor woman wending her way through the pelting storm; garments soaked and clinging to the chilled form; heart filled with despair, and crying to Heaven for shelter; head aching, temples throbbing, brain nearly crazed with terror; finally, crouching down under some old steps to wait the first gleam of day to relieve her from her agony. If one in such condition should reach the river-side, what a fearful temptation it must be to take that final leap which ends for ever earth's cares and sufferings, or, still worse for the poor female, the temptation to seek in sin the refuge denied her in every other way!

"There the weary come, who through the daylight
Pace the town and crave for work in vain:
There they crouch in cold and rain and hunger,
Waiting for another day of pain.

"In slow darkness creeps the dismal river;
From its depths looks up a sinful rest.
Many a weary, baffled, hopeless wanderer
Has it drawn into its treacherous breast!

"There is near another river flowing.
Black with guilt and deep as hell and sin:
On its brink even sinners stand and shudder—
Cold and hunger goad the homeless in." [12]

What a mute appeal for such institutions is the case of the little Italian boy found dead on the steps of one of our Fifth avenue palaces last winter! Think of this little fellow as he slowly perished that bitter night, at the very feet of princely wealth. How his thoughts must have reverted to his dark-browed mother in her far-off sunny home! And think of that mother's anguish, her wailing

"For a birdling lost that she'll never find."

when she heard of her boy's death, from cold and starvation, in the principal avenue of all free America! We consider we are safe in saying that in no other work of charity could a small amount of money be made to benefit so many as in the founding of these refuges. In the police report it is recommended that "several of these be established in different parts of the city, to be under the supervision of the police." This is a great mistake. These people always associate station-houses and the police with crime; consequently it is bad policy for them to come constantly in contact with either. This is the objection to the lodging-rooms used in the various precincts. Official charity, as a rule, hardens those who dole it out, and degrades its recipients.

There are thousands of noble-hearted women attached to our different churches, who, if they once thoroughly understood this subject, would not cease their efforts until societies were established and refuges opened. How could it be otherwise! How could they nestle their little ones down to sleep in warm comfortable beds, and think of God's little ones freezing under their windows? How could they go to sleep themselves, and feel that some poor woman was probably wandering past their doorways, dying from want and exposure? We hope, before the chilling winds of next November remind us of the immensity of suffering the winter entails upon the poor, some philanthropic persons will have perfected this design, and have the refuges in working order. If such should be the case, the founders will find an ample reward in the words of Holy Writ, "He that hath mercy on the poor, lendeth to the Lord: and he will repay him."

If we could thus, by the adoption of every possible sanitary precaution, deprive our death-tables of all avoidable mortality; and by a proper religious influence elevate the moral character of the people, we should in the first place, save thousands of lives, now necessary to develop our vast resources; and, secondly, our advance toward perfection in healthfulness and public virtues would go hand in had with the gigantic strides being made in the adornment of our beautiful island. Our people would no longer seek other places in quest of health, as none more salubrious than New York could be found; and strangers, instead of saying, as is said of that most beautiful of Italy's fair cities, "See Naples, and die!" would exclaim, "Go to New York, and live!"

*****************************************

1 Health in Country and Cities, W.F. Thomas, M.D.

2 Mr. Dyer's Report on the Conditions of the Destitute and Outcast Children of this city.

3 Dr. Harris's Report

4 Dr. Harris's Report

5 Dyer's Report

6 Report Metropolitan Police

7 R.G. Pardee, Esq., Commuication to New York Observer

8 Dyer's Report

9 Proctor

10 Report of Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor in New York: 1863.

11 Proctor

12 Proctor


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