Monday, December 7, 2020

The Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum (JHCOA) Baltimore, Maryland

Whatever Happened to Birdie Shine?

Caring for the Children At

The Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum, and its predecessors, 1867-1923

©Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, Retired

Pupils in Pleasant Green School - Pocahontas County--Marlinton, West Virginia

/ Photo by L.W. Hine, 1921, Library of Congress digital files, nclc 04343

(1921, October)

There are no known images of the children cared for at the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum

What obligation society has for children whose parents, for whatever reason, cannot care for them is a matter of long standing debate in the United States. Until the end of the 19th century it was a subject about which, for the most part, private religious based organizations concerned themselves, providing varying degrees of care, the most extensive and expensive of which was the creation of orphanages, the second homes that Timothy A. Hasci studies in his book on Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America.[1] There have been a number of studies that have examined the history of orphanages in the era of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum (1873-1923) but few have looked carefully, or even mentioned the Hopkins experiment. They include Nurith Zamora, Orphanages Reconsidered: Child Care Institutions in Progressive Era Baltimore. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994, and Richard B. McKenzie, Home Away from Home: The Forgotten History of Orphanages, New York: Encounter Books, 2009, neither of which refer to the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum.[2] Marcy K. Wilson, "Dear Little Living Arguments": Orphans and Other Poor Children, Their Families and Orphanages, Baltimore and Liverpool, 1840-1910. College Park, Md: University of Maryland, 2009, is an exception, but she does not attempt to identify the residents or provide an assessment of their care.[3]

By the end of the 19th Century orphanages were being challenged by the advocates of foster care and social services who ultimately triumphed.[4] Public ownership and management of institutions for the care of poor children tended to be for those who were considered ungovernable and possibly criminal (“offenders”), such as the House of Reformation for Colored Boys (1870), at Cheltenham, Maryland, and the Melvale Industrial School for Colored Girls (1882), which began as a private facility designed to manage and discipline colored girls who did not voluntarily conform to the religious and legal mores of the day. Melvale became a fully funded state Institution in 1931 and was moved out of the city, but in the years that the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum was admitting residents, it was located just over the Jones Falls on Melvale Avenue, later Cold Spring Lane, not far from the Asylum. At least three of the girls who did not follow the Asylum regimen gracefully were transferred there. As the 1904 Hospital Superintendent’s report explained: “One girl was committed to the Industrial Home for Colored Children at Melvale because the Committee found that her influence was not good for the general welfare at the Asylum.”[5]

Through special acts of the Maryland General Assembly, and City appropriations, some orphanages in Baltimore City received annual subsidies. After 1915, State subsidies were considerably reduced or eliminated with the reorganization of State Government as recommended by a commission headed by the President of Johns Hopkins, Frank Goodnow.[6] The Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum did not receive either a state subsidy or city support, save for free water until 1901 when the city began to charge,[7] but those who graduated to domestic service in the city in the last years of the Asylum’s support may have benefited from a little known program of the City Health Department which by 1931 was offering a day nursery “in the colored residential section. It is operated primarily to meet the needs of colored mothers who work as domestic servants. There are accommodations for about 35 children who as a rule range in age from two month to twelve years. The regular personnel consists of one resident nurse and three attendants.” [8]

Johns Hopkins University through students like Jeffrey Brackett, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital through its Social Services department was in the forefront of developing foster care (“placed out”), and the social services outreach approach to caring for destitute and neglected children regardless of color. Jeffrey Brackett not only wrote a thesis on “The Negro In maryland: A study of the Institution of Slavery,” he was a pioneer advocate of medical social services and a founding head of what would become the Simmons College School of Social Work.[9] Five years before the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum’s move to 31st Street, he published his Notes on the Progress of the Colored People of Maryland since the War (1890), a remarkable study of the racial prejudices of the day, and in 1897 he chaired a special Baltimore City Commission on the “Care of Certain City Poor,” which, with a dissent from the lawyer who represented the then private Melvale Industrial School for Colored Girls, advocated giving the Trustees of the Poor greater funding and the power to allocate support for the care of the children of the poor, either in their homes, in foster care (“placed out”), or in carefully selected private institutions.[10]

By the 1970s orphanages had all but disappeared nationwide, replaced by foster care and direct subsidies to mothers to help care for their children. In the 1990s the Gingrich revolution abolished direct Federal payments to mothers and a number of Conservatives called for the re-establishment of orphanages, but that was not to be. Instead the national debate today has centered largely on only one aspect of childcare, the health of the child, while social service agencies remain overwhelmed by those they have identified as being in need of assistance and find themselves without sufficient political support to sustain, or more importantly, increase their funding.[11]

Following the Civil War the most acute problems of neglected child care were centered in the urban areas to which former slaves sought refuge and immigrants arrived in large numbers to seek their freedom and fortune. Baltimore was no exception. By 1910 there were 36 institutions in Maryland caring for orphans (generally defined as having a single parent or no parent living), of which 29 were located in Baltimore City. Of the 29, 6 admitted “colored,” for a total of 376 “colored” children on the rolls that year of which 61 (16.2%) were residents of the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum. How many children of all ‘shades’ needed help but did not get it is almost impossible to determine. The records of private and public institutions devoted to the care of neglected children are uneven and sparse, and estimating the number of children over time who were in dire need of public and private support is a challenge. The 1897 Baltimore City Commission created to look into the “Care of Certain City Poor” simply threw up their hands and made it clear that determining “the exact number of children dependent on the city is practically impossible.” Instead they proposed without success that the City Trustees of the Poor should be empowered and well funded to determine the numbers and the need. Even the United States Census Bureau which tried to determine the extent of the care of poor children between 1880 and 1910 could not come up with any meaningful indication of how many children needed public and private attention.[12]

In 1870 the Twenty-First Annual Report of the Baltimore Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor noted that it had reached out to 2,937 families of which 357 or a little over 12% were “colored.” To place that in context, the estimated total number of colored families in Baltimore in 1870 was about 6,000 which indicates that at least 6% of the families who were designated ‘colored’ were in dire need of assistance that year. One of the Vice Presidents of the Association was particularly concerned about the care of the colored orphans in the city and he came up with his own estimate of the need, perhaps based upon what he had learned from his role in the management of the Baltimore Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor whose motto was “God Loveth a Cheerful Giver.”[13]

When that vice president of the association, Johns Hopkins, died on Christmas Eve, 1873, he left his fortune to education and health care, including the care of 3-400 colored orphans who were to be provided for by the income of $20,000 a year from a fund he created to support the orphanage, as well as a hospital, and a university. [14]

Johns Hopkins outlined what he intended in a letter written to his trustees ten months before he died and which was published by the Trustees


It will be your duty, hereafter, to provide for the erection, upon other ground, of suitable buildings for the reception, maintenance and education of orphan colored children.

I direct you to provide accommodation for three or four hundred children of this class; and you are also authorized' to receive into this asylum, at your discretion, as belonging to such class, colored children who have lost one parent only, and, in exceptional cases, to receive colored children who are not orphans, but who may be in such circumstances as to require the aid of the Charity.

I desire that you shall apply the yearly sum of twenty thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, of the revenue of the property which you will hereafter receive, to the maintenance of the Orphans' Home intended for such children.

In order to enable you to carry my wishes into full effect, I will now, and in each succeeding year during my life, until the hospital buildings are fully completed, and in readiness to receive patients, place at your disposal the sum of one hundred thousand dollars.

In addition to the gift, already made to you, of the thirteen acres of land in the city of Baltimore, upon which the Hospital will be built, I have dedicated to its support and to the payment of the annual sum provided to be paid for the support of the Orphans' Home, property which you may safely estimate as worth, to-day, two millions of dollars, and from which your corporation will certainly receive a yearly revenue of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars; and which time and your diligent care will make more largely productive.

If the Hospital and Orphans' Home are not built at my death, it will be your duty to apply the income arising from the property so dedicated to their completion. When they are built the income from that property will suffice for their maintenance.[15]

In his will Johns Hopkins reaffirmed his commitment to the separate asylum “for the reception and care of colored orphans and destitute children.”[16]

The response of the Black community to Johns Hopkins proposal to build and fund an orphanage for colored orphans was immediate. At a meeting at the Douglass Institute near City Hall, held on April 8, 1873, a who's who of the colored citizens of Baltimore with distinguished out of town guests, praised the intent of the benevolent Quaker.

Among them were Samuel Ward Chase (1835-1915), the undertaker son of a distinguished educator and pastor, Isaac Myers (1835-1891) a pioneering African American trade unionist, a co-operative organizer of an all Black shipyard, and caulker, and John W. Lochs (1819?-1884), a wealthy hackman and president of the Black owned Chesapeake Railway and Dry Dock Company.[17]

Isaac Myer photo

Isaac Myers (1835-1891)

Isaac Myers pointed out that

... true to the instincts of his own nature, to the teachings of the Friends’ Society, he persevered [against opposition], and declared there would be no distinction of race or color within the walls of the noble institution he had founded.

John Stella Martin (1832-1876)


The Reverend John Sella Martin (1832-1876), a former slave and noted preacher then residing in Louisiana, addressed the crowd:

… white people were not disposed to give anything to the colored people except from necessity. They did ot let them fight or vote until they found it a political necessity. There was now an educational necessity, and Johns Hopkins was the first man to see that necessity. He has taken the highest expression of the spirit of the age as his guide -- Others have left their money to be expended after their death, but Mr. Hopkins gives his money while living, and keeps an eye on its disbursement. It requires the best of training, that of the Quaker Society, to produce such a man as Johns Hopkins. … Johns Hopkins will be lifted in the future to that high station which is accorded to the true philanthropist. [18]

Galloway Cheston (1806-1881), first Chairman of the Board of Trustees

and Benefactor Johns Hopkins (May 19, 1795-December 24, 1873)

In 1875 the Baltimore Architect John R. Niernsée submitted plans for a 300 bed facility to the Johns Hopkins Trustees, but the panic of 1873 and the subsequent depression, temporarily reduced considerably the value of the Hopkins endowment intended for the asylum, and Niernsée’s proposal was never built, although land for it was purchased off the Frederick Road, adjacent to Mount Olivet Cemetery and the House of Refuge in West Baltimore.[19]

The Baltimore County Union. January 09, 1875

John R. Niernsee’s plans for the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum

Instead the Trustees drastically reduced the number of orphans they would sponsor. From 1873 until 1917, when the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum closed its doors, up to 75 girls a year were cared for at three successive locations, 16 Fayette Street, 206 West Biddle Street, and finally in the renovated summer home of former governor William Pinkney Whyte on 31st Street adjoining the Marine Hospital.[20]

Judge Harlan’s notebook, pp. 181-182, The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives

of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Judge Henry T. Harlan (1858-1943), from the day he became a trustee of the Hospital, took an interest in the Asylum, providing a map of it and the adjoining property in his diary, along with a note of the history of its acquisition and expansion. The former summer residence of Governor Whyte was purchased for $18,500 in July of 1894. By September 1, 1895 an annex was built for $26, 453.53, and furnished for $2,259.70, providing accommodations for seventy-five girls 5 to 18.[21] The facilities ceased being an orphanage in 1917 when it was turned over to the University and the remaining ‘inmates’ provided an allowance to live elsewhere until they reached 18.

In all, according to the annual reports, 147 girls would be admitted to residence over the years of the operation of the Asylum on 31st Street, which with the children who were transferred from Biddle Street probably meant that altogether over 180 orphans would enter its doors until admissions ceased in 1913. Because there are no surviving formal individual admission, behavior, or placement records, however, a complete list of names is not possible, although with the census records of 1900 and 1910, newspaper accounts, and mention of some residents in the Annual Reports, 176 children were identified as having lived at the Asylum on 31st Street.[22]

Initially the Trustees attempted to meet the spirit of the terms of Johns Hopkins’s letter by supporting a shelter for colored children that had been established by statute in 1867 and was located at 16 Lafayette Street with funding by Johns Hopkins, and his friend, Galloway Cheston, later chairman of the board of Trustees for Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Trustees quickly found that the Lafayette location was not suitable.[23] As one account put it, “the old situation of the shelter, in Fayette street, was low, damp and distant, and the house inconvenient.” Instead the trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital purchased a vacant house on West Biddle Street behind the Orchard Street Colored Methodist Church, and left its administration to an independent board of managers.[24] Today the site is covered by Martin Luther King boulevard.

1879 Sanborn Insurance map showing the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum (206 West Biddle

)and the Orchard Street Colored Methodist Church, detail from:

Detail from 1879 Sanborn placed on a 2016 Google Earth map of the Orchard Street Church neighborhood

To the surprise of the Hospital Trustees and the board of the shelter, the neighborhood at first objected, complaining bitterly to the City Council that the orphanage was a neighborhood ‘nuisance’. The officers and friends of “The Shelter for colored Orphans and Friendless Colored Children,” a number of whom were also the trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, found it necessary to defend themselves in the Baltimore Sun:

When the house in Biddle street was presented to the notice of the managers it seemed to them in all respects eligible. The last tenant left it mainly on account of the noisy and disagreeable surroundings. It had remained more than two years unrented and unsold, two large schools near, and a long alley at the back occupied entirely by colored people, rendering the ‘elegant’ residence rather undesirable. The managers of the Shelter were able to purchase it at a reduced price, and neither wishing nor expecting to excite hostility or opposition, occupied the house, not only to their comfort and convenience, but greatly to the improved health and benefit of the children. It was only after the purchase was completed that we became aware that the institution would be so unwelcome to the neighborhood.[25]

The officers and friends invited the public to see for themselves.

Of the thirty children in ‘The Shelter,’ nearly half have been received the present year [1873], the greater number are under six years of age; three only are over ten and one is nearly fourteen. These four last do nearly all the housework. They help to wash, to iron and to scrub. Only one colored woman is employed in the house, to cook and help in this large family. The matron and her sister teach the children in school, nurse them in sickness, make nearly all the clothing, and keep the house in more than common cleanliness. The children are placed out as soon as fit for service. Quite a number during the past year have found homes, where we trust they will grow up to be useful men and women. Nearly every one of our children have been taken from destitution and misery that must have led to crime or death.

The shelter sought Council support for their work on the grounds that they were helping to prevent crime and poverty in the city. It is not known if the city complied, but the Sun reported that for the subsequent 19 years (1873-1892) the asylum received about $85,000 from the trustees of Johns Hopkins Hospital.[26]

1881 Baltimore City Directory

1880 Census of Orphans at 206/208 West Biddle (renumbered 519 West Biddle in 1888)

According to the 1880 census 11 boys and 40 girls were cared for at the West Biddle Street address. While there is a list of their names in the census schedules, little is known about their lives beyond their ages that year.[27]

By July 1894 the Trustees had decided to sell the Biddle Street property to the “Shelter for Aged & Infirm colored Persons,” and provide a new home for the orphans on 31st Street in the new north-western annex to the city (new Ward 22).[28]

1896 Bromley Atlas of Baltimore City, detail showing the location and outline of the

Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum identified as the “Colored Home” on

West 31st Street, formerly King Street

an excerpt from the 1927 aerial survey of Baltimore with the numbers indicating, 3) the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum buildings, then in use as a psychological laboratory, 2) the 1894 row houses on West 31st Street, and 1)the home of Jacob Y[e]agle at 2802 Huntingdon Avenue who is among the boys in the following photograph.

Neighborhood Boys of Remington, contemporaries of the orphans on 31st Street[29]

Privately owned, see:

A copy of the by-laws governing the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum on 31st Street has survived among the records of the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives.[30] No child was to be admitted over ten years of age or under five, although an exception could be made by the Committee on Admission and Dismission.[31] The children were to remain in the Asylum until eighteen years of age. Each child on becoming of age (18) was to receive a Bible, and trunk, with a suitable outfit of clothing consisting of:

2 Woolen Dresses (old and new)

2 Percale Dresses

1 Black Dress

2 Domestic Dresses

4 White Aprons

3 Gingham Aprons

1 White Skirt

2 Flannel Skirts

2 Seersucker Skirts

3 Gowns

4 Chemises

4 Pairs of Drawers

3 Undervests

4 Pairs Stockings











Until 1909 education was at the school, and from outset religious instruction was provided by the Episcopalian Bishop of Maryland and those he designated, although until 1911, the Matrons in charge were Quakers, as was Johns Hopkins, the benefactor.[32]

The stated main objective of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum was to provide a suitable context for raising the young women to be wage earning domestic servants when they reached their majority of 18.[33] While not all of the residents of the asylum on 31st Street are known by name, from the 1900 and 1910 census schedules, the annual reports of the Superintendent of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the confirmation records at the Protestant Episcopal Archives, and, for the final years, from among the surviving detailed records of the asylum at the The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, a roster of the majority can be compiled.[34]

Opening Day, October 30, 1895

According to the Baltimore Sun, Wednesday, October 30th, was a lovely, crisp, partly cloudy day, with a high of 44 degrees fahrenheit. The following day the Baltimore Sun introduced the new facilities and described the opening ceremonies held at 31st Street:

The Asylum now has accommodations for 75 colored girls, 50 in the new building, and 25 in the old one. At present there are 35 girls in the home, all of them occupying the new building, while the old building is not used.

The ladies in charge of the asylum are anxious to have the enlarged accommodations made full use of by those who are entitled to the privilege. Female colored orphans are taken between the ages of two and seven years, and remain under the oversight of the asylum authorities until they are eighteen. They are well educated and are trained as domestic servants. On leaving the institution homes are found for them and an outfit is given to each.[35]

The opening exercises included singing and a series of temperance recitations by seven of the older inmates in competition for a Demorest silver medal.


The Demorest prize was created by philanthropist W. Jennings Demorest (1822-1895) in 1886 to encourage young people to recite speeches of temperance movement leaders. Its medals—silver, as here, gold, and even diamond—were presented in contests throughout the country through the early years of the 20th century.

Resident Leah Carleton won the medal with Lizzie Hall (14), runner up. In addition to the medal, books were given to each of the seven girls by Mrs. Joseph P. Elliott, vice president of the Lady Managers of the Asylum.

While the principal address was given by her husband, Joseph P. Elliott, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the most notable speaker of the day was a former domestic servant from Baltimore who became one of the best known poets and Temperance advocates of her day, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.

Forest Leaves by Frances Ellen (Watkins) Harper, c. 1849. Rare Books Collection, MdHS. (MP3.H294F)[36]

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper had been an orphan herself in Baltimore, raised and educated by her Uncle William Watkins who for many years prior to the Civil War ran one of the most successful of the private schools established for the education of the colored population of Baltimore City. She first earned her living in Baltimore as a domestic servant, and after publishing her first pamphlet of poetry in Baltimore, moved to Ohio to teach, followed by a long career of writing poetry, speaking out against slavery and, in favor of women’s suffrage and Temperance. As an orphan and later as a widowed single mother raising a daughter who, until her death, accompanied her mother on her speaking engagements, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was a role model for the residents of the Johns Hopkins Orphan Asylum, perhaps more so than the Trustees and Lady Managers of the Asylum intended.

The previous year Frances Ellen Watkins Harper had participated in the meetings of the American Association of Educators of Colored Youth which were held at the principal black churches in Baltimore between July 24th and 27th, 1894.[37] The meeting was opened at North Street Baptist Church with an address of welcome by Mayor Ferdinand Latrobe, whose sister-in-law would oversee religious education at the Asylum. He was followed by Governor Brown, the State Superintendent of Public Education, the President of the City School Board, the Superintendent of City Public Schools, Bishop Wayman of the AME Church, the president of Morgan College, Reverend Harvey Johnson, pastor of the North Street Baptist Church, and E. J. Waring, Esq, on behalf of the citizens of Baltimore. It was an auspicious beginning, with sessions held morning, noon and night, including a paper by W. Ashbie Hawkins on the education of colored youth prior to the commencement of the public school system in the city in 1869. On the 26th Frances Ellen Watkins Harper read a poem, perhaps “A Fairer Hope, A Brighter Morn,” which includes the lines:

Higher and better than hate for hate,

Like the scorpion fangs that desolate,

Is the hope of a brighter, fairer morn

And a peace and love that shall yet be born;

When the Negro shall hold an honored place,

The friend and helper of every race;

His mission to build and not destroy,

And gladden the world with love and joy.

She would go on to author with Bishop Wayman and two other colleagues, a resolution adopted by the meeting that there “should be no discrimination in the appointment of [public school] teachers … solely on the ground of color, and that all applicants should be tried by the same rules and judged by the same standards.” The Board Lady Managers of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum and the male Trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital to whom they reported, chose not to send the residents to Baltimore City Public Schools until 1909, preferring instead to provide schooling at the Asylum.

From the beginning on 31st Street, the lives of the residents were managed by an active group of society women who constituted a Board of Visitors and chaired committees on finance, purchasing, admissions and dismission, religious instruction, clothing, domestic science, and education.[38] Hannah Pope [cite years and her term) was the first president of the Board of Visitors. The day to day operations were entrusted to a matron and her staff. From 1895 until her retirement in 1905, Sarah Isabella White, a Quaker born in Franklin, Southampton County Virginia, not long after Nat Turner’s bloody slave rebellion, ran the Asylum, assisted by her two daughters, one of whom, Mary Ellen, succeeded her.

Governance, The White Years:

Very little is known about the life of Sarah Isabella White and her daughters outside their work at the Asylum. Sarah Isabella was a single mother, the widow of Exum Newby White (1824-1886), who brought her two daughters to live and work with her at the Asylum She and her daughters attended Homewood Meeting and when she retired in 1905 to be succeeded by her daughter Mary Isabella, she continued to live at the Asylum until her death in 1910. By then one daughter Ellen Margaret, who taught school at the Asylum, had left to live first in Thurmont Maryland and then to teach in Suffolk, Virginia, not far from where her mother was born. Ellen Margaret died in 1939 and was buried with her mother in the family plot in Poplar Spring Cemetery, Franklin City, Southampton County, Virginia. Mary Isabella, the second matron of the Asylum, left the Asylum not long after her mother’s death to live with her sister in Thurmont, Maryland, before also returning to Franklin, Virginia, where she died ca. 1933 and was buried with her mother in Poplar Spring Cemetery.[39]

Sarah Isabella White, the first matron of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum on 31st Street, was not a wealthy society woman like those on the board of Visitors and Lady Managers to whom she reported. When she died of heart failure in 1906, the obituary in the Sun reported that

Mrs. White was a Virginia lady and a well-known and esteemed member of the Society of Friends, both in Maryland and in Virginia. She was born in Franklin, Va., 76 years ago. Mrs. White was greatly beloved at the asylum for her benevolent nature and her wise guidance of the affairs of the institution, to which she had given so many years of devoted effort.[40]

She left an estate worth little over $700 to her children in 1910. In all five children survived her, Mary, Ellen, Martha (who married a Bristow), Thomas Parker, and Joseph J. G., along with several grandchildren. Her sons were farmers in Southampton County Virginia. All were devout Quakers and, those who lived for a time in Baltimore, were members of the Homewood Meeting. While Mary and Ellen were employed first as teachers at the Asylum, Ellen left before her mother retired. Mary succeeded her mother as matron in 1905, leaving not long after her mother’s death in 1910, after some undocumented disagreement with the Hospital over her management.[41] She was succeeded by the last matron, Annie Beecher Scoville, whose title was changed to Superintendent, and who tried without success to persuade the Hospital Trustees to continue to support the Asylum. In 1914 the Board of Trustees converted the Asylum to a colored crippled children’s hospital (officially named The Johns Hopkins School & Convalescent Home for Colored Children), and the remaining residents were “placed out,” to be financially supported until the Trustees felt they no longer had an obligation to care for them.[42]

Apart from the cost of the building and addition (all estimated to be worth $78,286.41 in 1912), the average annual per capita expenditures for an average of 62 residents a year between 1907 and 1911, amounted to $170.[43] This did not include any gifts or services provided gratis by the Lady Managers or the Protestant Episcopal Church, but does include maintenance on the buildings. Over the years from 1895 until 1912 the reported yearly expenses remained relatively constant at about $11,000. Of that amount about $4,000 a year was spent on food. What was spent annually on salaries prior to 1907 is not known, but probably did not exceed $3,000 a year. In the Superintendent’s report covering the year 1911, the last year of the White family management, there are two charts, one which gives a comprehensive analysis of all expenditures that year, and one that provides five years of data on net expenditures, average number of children, and the average cost per child. It is clear that the yearly total fell short of the $20,000 dollars a year Johns Hopkins intended to be allocated to the care of orphans.

23rd Report of the Superintendent of the The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Note that the expenditures are for February 1911 through January 1912, the twelve month time frame that was used in all the Superintendent’s published reports on the Asylum. In 1918 the Hospital Trustees recorded that they were “saving $10,000 a year” with the closing of the Asylum. By then the property had been turned over to the University and was occupied by the Psychology Department.

Metal tokens earned by the Residents are known to exist in one, five, and ten cent denominations. What was referred to as aluminum currency was introduced in 1902[44]. The first ‘currency’ devised for the residents was paper or pasteboard stamped with an official seal. The date on the coin of 1867 is misleading. That refers to the incorporation year of an institution for the care of colored boys and girls that was first subsidized, and then taken over by the Trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in an effort to fulfill the terms of Johns Hopkins’s will. The coin illustrated here was owned by the late Russ Sears and is referenced in an article by his wife, the first published essay on the history of the Asylum.

The public notices of activities at the Asylum, some with a decidedly racist tinge by 1908, (such as the headline from the Sun “Pickininnies’ Revel. Little Orphans Taught to be Useful at Colored Asylum”), mostly dealt with special events, award ceremonies and a degree of self-government introduced by Matron White’s daughters in 1899.

The idea of creating a “Junior Republic” is credited to William Reuben George who provided a refuge in Freeville New York for the ‘street urchins’ of New York beginning in 1890. By 1895 he had established rules for a degree of self governance that gained an entry in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica entitled “George Junior Republic.”

[William Reuben George] devised first (1894) the plan of requiring payment by the children in labour for all they received during these summer jaunts, then (1895) self-government for a summer colony near Freeville, and finally a permanent colony, in which the children stay for several years. The Republic was founded on the 10th of July 1895; the only check on the powers of executive, representative and judicial branches of the government lies in the veto of the superintendent. “Nothing without labour” is the motto of the community, so strictly carried out that a girl or boy in the Republic who has not money[45] to pay for a night’s lodging must sleep in jail and work the next day for the use of the cell. The legislative body, originally a House of Representatives and a Senate, in 1899 became more like the New England town meeting. The respect for the law that follows its enactment by the citizens themselves is remarkable in a class so largely of criminal tendencies; and it is particularly noticeable that positions on the police force are eagerly coveted. Fifteen is the age of majority; suffrage is universal, children under fifteen must be in charge of a citizen guardian. The average age of citizens was seventeen in 1908. The proportion of girls to boys was originally small, but gradually increased; in 1908 there were about 70 girls and 90 boys. The tendency is to admit only those aged at least sixteen and physically well equipped. In the Republic’s earlier years the citizens lived in boarding-houses of different grades, but later in family groups in cottages (there were in 1910 twelve cottages) under the care of “house-mothers.” The labour of the place is divided into sewing, laundry work, cooking and domestic service for the girls, and furniture making, carpentry, farm work, baking bread and wafers (the business of an Auburn biscuit factory was bought in 1903), plumbing and printing for the boys. Masonry and shoe and harness making were tried for a few years. There is an efficient preparatory and high school, from which students enter directly leading colleges. The religious influence is strong, wholesome and unsectarian; students in Auburn Theological Seminary have assisted in the religious work; Roman Catholic and Hebrew services are also held; and attendance at church services is compulsory only on convicts and prisoners. [46]

In 1899 a George Junior Republic farm was established at Annapolis Junction in Howard and Anne Arundel counties,[47] and that same year Sarah Isabella’s daughters, created a Junior Republic at the 31st Street Asylum with the consent of the Board of Lady managers and the Hospital Trustees. The Baltimore Sun carried a favorable notice in June, 1899, written at the time of the closing exercise for the Asylum’s school, which was followed by a national story in Youth’s Companion for February 22, 1900 based on the Sun article.[48] The last public notice of the Republic at the Asylum was in August 1908.[49] Together the three articles provide a glimpse into the daily life of the residents.

The 1908 story opens with a pathetic scene of a grandfather bringing his two granddaughters to be admitted. While it is not certain who the Lillian of the story was (a Lily Fisher, age 7, was admitted the second of April, 1908, and a Lilian Ross , age 9, was admitted in June of that year), the matron was assisted in the process of admission as described in the article, by Bertha Thompson, age 13, who was in charge of the music and would soon be sent to Hampton Institute to further her education. Sadly Bertha’s older sister Clarissa, died in June of 1908 of Tuberculosis, a serious health issue at the Asylum.[50]

It was a pleasant home that the two children were to enter and much more attractive than the places of squalor they had left. Situated on Remington avenue, on a plateau said to be higher than [the] Washington Monument, it affords a view of Druid Hill Park and the surrounding count[r]y. Occupying a solid square the red brick buildings of the asylum are surrounded by pretty gardens and well-kept lawns, fringed by hedges of flowers and foliage.

Since its foundation, about 20 years ago, by the late Johns Hopkins it has been considered a model orphanage. Under the same management as the Johns Hopkins Hospital, it has the advantage of the instruction of a dietetic nurse, who, during the winter, conducts two weekly classes in cooking. The care of the institution is under the direct supervision of a matron, a sewing teacher, a school teacher, and a laundress.

A tour of inspection of the buildings showed that from the tiniest child, who was busy washing door knobs, each one had some special duty for which she was responsible. In the laundry a group of girls were busy ironing. Laundry work is done five days in the week and in addition to their own clothes the laundry of the matron and her assistants is done by the girls.

The breakfast hour is at 6:30 o’clock and the girls are supposed to be at their morning work by 7:30 o’clock. During the winter the younger children have lessons in the big schoolroom, where on Sunday afternoon Protestant Episcopal Church services are held.

The management of the school is on the order of that at the National Junior Republic at Annapolis Junction, where self-government is the motto. The girls are paid for their work and with their wages they buy clothes. The officers are elected … [They are seated at meals] according to their good or bad behavior. In the dining room the good children occupy seats at flower-trimmed tables; the moderately good girls have only oilcloth on their tables and the bad girls eat from board tables.

In the sewing classes are made all of the clothes worn by the Inmates. The mending, which is considerable, is done by the girls themselves, and at intervals the girls sew upon their little wardrobes, which they during their life at the asylum prepare to take away when they leave for positions.

The earlier stories provided more of the details of the operation of the Republic. The girls were ‘hired’ by the week. Experts were paid $1 a week in the Republic’s currency and told to be careful with their money for which they were given cloth bags. They were then made to pay for everything they wanted with the exception of lodging and meals which were given free. As the Sun reported those that failed to save or behaved badly were dubbed paupers, and taken off wages. If they were good, they were put back on the payroll and for those who performed exceptionally well, additional wages were given. Paupers were compelled to eat at the board table, given old garments, had their names posted on the blackboard, and were compelled to go to bed early. Of the 72 residents at the Asylum in 1899, not more than 8 or 10 were considered paupers according to the Sun.

In all, there is only one known instance of a parent being dissatisfied with the care of a child at the Asylum and that may have been because she could not be ‘retrieved’ to help support her mother. By all accounts Birdie Shine liked living at the Asylum and fit in well with the program there.[51]


William Paret (September 23, 1826 - January 18, 1911),

Episcopal Bishop of Maryland, 1885-1911[52]

While the Matron and the first teachers were Quakers, the Religious Committee of the Lady Managers was headed by Mrs. Charles H. Latrobe, a devout Episcopalian and sister-in-law of Ferdinand Latrobe, Mayor of Baltimore in 1895. In that year she apparently persuaded the Episcopal Bishop, Paret, to take the charge of the religious work of the Asylum.

Baltimore Sun (local edition), August 19, 1912

In 1899 the Bishop appointed Dr. George Washington Simpson to oversee the religious training of the residents, as well as medical advice. He continued in that post until June of 1912, shortly before he died. Born in Baltimore in 1841, Dr. Simpson was not only a clergyman, but also a medical doctor who by the time of his death maintained a large practice in northeast Baltimore. He was appointed Chaplain in the U. S. Army by President Grant and served for nearly 20 years in Texas, Nebraska and Wyoming. Before coming back to Baltimore to practice medicine and oversee religious instruction at the Asylum, he wrote a manual for Army Chaplains that was the standard for many years. Politically, he was a staunch Republican who several times ran unsuccessfully from the 7th Ward for a seat in the Legislature. He clearly had an impact on the residents.

Because of the well-maintained archives of the Diocese of Maryland it is possible to identify the residents who were confirmed as Episcopalians, even after Dr. Simpson retired and the girls were “placed out,” In 1914 the Remington based priest, Reverend George J. Kromer, confirmed 18 of the former residents. In all of the 200 orphans identified, 94 were confirmed (48%) by Dr. Simpson and Reverend Kromer..

Those who were confirmed attended services at the Asylum on Sunday afternoon or went to St. James or St. Mary’s. Reverend George F. Bragg, preached at the Asylum. Reverend Bragg founded his own orphan asylum for colored boys for which he was successful in obtaining an annual subsidy from the Maryland Legislature. After 1902 the residents who were confirmed went once a month to St. James and or St. Mary’s for communion.[53]

Health Care:

Dr. Ralph Winslow (1852-1937)

from: Men of Mark in Maryland, Vol II, 1910

Matron Sarah Isabella White [quote her about health]. Premature. Measles, Dysentery, and Tuberculosis struck. As Early as 1899, there were a few unhappy inmates, some perhaps with severe mental problems. [screaming etc.]

The first Doctor employed on retainer at the Hopkins Asylum, Dr. Randolph Winslow (1853-1937), was a pioneer in the practice of womens’ diseases. He founded the Women’s Hospital in Baltimore, and ended his career at the University of Maryland Hospital . A Quaker he was well known with his son for his work in breast cancer surgery as well as other ‘female’ afflictions.[54] Over time Johns Hopkins Hospital provided medical care for the inmates, especially during the flu epidemic of 1898, and outbreaks of measles, dysentery, and tuberculosis.

[check medical issues at the Asylum]


For life of the Asylum the education of the children was under the oversight of a Committee of Lady Managers headed for a number of years by Baltimore Socialite Fanny Turnbull. The children at first were taught by a succession of white teachers at the asylum. The financial records at the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives document the purchase of textbooks and supplies as well as the salaries of the teachers, two of whom were the daughters of the Matron, Isabella White. The kindergarten was established in [] employing the first colored teacher, Mrs. Alice E. Mitchell, whose husband, John W., may have worked in the Baltimore customs house as a Republican political appointee. Both left Baltimore in 1902 to go to Cheltenham as public employees where Alice continued to teach and John was placed in charge of the chair caning department. Alice would return briefly to help care for the children. Cheltenham was a publicly funded juvenile correction facility for colored children established in 1890 on a farm donated by Enoch Pratt and is still in existence.[55]

A Girls Classroom in a Baltimore City Colored School, 1921

In 1909 as a cost saving measure, it was decided to send the school age girls (some 30 students) to Colored Public School 115 off Greenmount avenue (The Talbott Street School on Talbott Street which ran northward from 412 East 31st Street).

in order that they might receive instruction under freer and more normal conditions than seemed possible in an ungraded school at the Asylum and since that date these girls have attended this school regularly with decided benefit. The instruction has been good and the teachers have been kind and devoted. It is evident however that the school as at present situated is a decided menace to the lives, health and morals of scholars by reason of improper location and defective facilities for the care of children. [quote rest of letter]

Detail from the 1906 Bromley Atlas of Baltimore City


The move to public education was disastrous as Annie Beecher Scoville hints in her one and only annual report as Superintendent. She wrote that:

At the opening of the year, February, 1912, we had thirty-seven girls in Public School no. 115; we now have twenty-eight in school. … There was no one at the Asylum who could co-operate with the teachers, and the children were irregular in attendance, and defiant and sulky about their work. The first step in reorganizing our life here was to see that every child was in school on time each day. A monitor to take them to and from school, a study hour where their lessons were prepared, note books, pencils, and book bags, all helped in establishing a new attitude toward the school. The Superintendent was the monitor for the first three months , and found it an excellent opportunity to study the school conditions.

In 1914 the reform minded daughter of Daniel Coit Gilman, the first President of Johns Hopkins University, visited the school and issued a scathing report:

No action was taken and according to a 1921 survey of the Baltimore Public Schools, No. 115 remained the worst of the colored schools. By then the orphans were gone, but the conditions under which they received a public education remained.

School No. 115

This building is not fit for the housing of school children . The second

story is the worst kind of a fire trap. The toilets are foul and adjacent

to the drinking fountains and in such close proximity to the school build

ing as to be a constant annoyance. The recent portables built on this

site do not meet modern standards of natural lighting. The site is totally

inadequate for school purposes and the building should be demolished .

An adequate site should be selected in the center of population for the

colored people in this section and a modern school building erected.[56]

Annie Beecher Scoville, portrait edited for cropping (detail), no date.

(Collection of Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, Beecher Family Papers, MS 71)

Governance: The Scoville Year, 1912

In 1911 Mary White left the Asylum and her successor, Annie Beecher Scoville, the granddaughter of the abolitionist Methodist preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, and keeper of the Beecher family archives, was hired to improve what the Lady Managers referred to as the “unsettled state” of the Asylum. Whether or not she kept the Junior Republic model is not clear from the surviving record, but she certainly had an impact on how the Asylum was run for the brief time she was in charge. Her hiring appears to have been the last ditch attempt on the part of a minority of Hospital Trustees and the Lady Managers to continue the institution. She was employed as Superintendent, not Matron, at $1,000 a year and given instructions by the Trustees that she not engage a workforce for more than $290 a month. She came with a teaching background from Hampton Institute where she oversaw the program for job training for Native American students. She was best known for her work as the special representative of the U. S. Indian Commissioner for whom, in 1905, she began a study of the Winnebago and Omaha Indian reservations. She also spent some time working at the Pine Ridge Bureau of Indian Affairs in South Dakota. The Cornwall Historical Society occupies her home in Western Connecticut and houses the bulk of her surviving papers. Curiously their web site does not mention her affiliation with the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum. It does note that “she traveled and worked [with the Indians] alone without a chaperone. For relatives and acquaintances back in Cornwall, this was truly radical and unsettling. According to family lore, her unusual behavior was attributed to bad parenting.” Her one time lover and long time friend was Katherine Lee Bates, author of America the Beautiful. Bates was professor of English Literature at Wellesley College and has left this sketch of Annie: “All her knowledge is vitalized by imagination and presented with such a glow of beauty, earnestness and joy as to inspire any audience with a fresh sense of the glory of life.”[57] It is likely that she found little that was to be joyful about on 31st Street.

In an effort to improve conditions at the Asylum Superintendent Scoville felt she had to upgrade the physical plant and farm out the incorrigibles and feeble minded, that in her opinion should never have been admitted in the first place. Her letters to Hospital Trustee, John M. Glenn[58], have not survived among his papers, but his response is revealing:

Your letter [he wrote Miss Scoville] is very interesting, as well as shocking. I am sure that we shall not accomplish any good by trying to keep incorrigible girls in a place that is not intended for care of that kind. Nor can we take proper care of the feeble-minded and the tuberculous. It is absolutely essential that we should make up our mind to deal with only normal children. There is no hope of success otherwise. It is not pleasant to send children to Melvale or to send them to any other institution, but it is the only way in which we can save the children who are not weak minded and bad. Keeping the abnormals means making the others abnormal morally or physically. The essential thing is to determine which are incorrigible and abnormal and which can be treated normally.

Please accept my sincere sympathy. You have had a very disagreeable time, but what you have learned is of great value to us.

Very sincerely yours,

J. M. Glenn[59]

Despite Annie Beecher Scoville’s efforts to make the Asylum viable, by 1913 the policies of Johns Hopkins University towards indigent children had shifted from supporting institutionalized care for young girls to social services outreach, and the decision was made to close the orphanage.

[Quote the 25th Annual Report published in 1915]

The facilities ceased being an orphanage in 1917 when it was turned over to the University and the remaining ‘inmates’ were placed elsewhere at the cost of the Hospital until they reached 21.

Paul Winchester, Baltimore Afro-American, June 13, 1925

Two years after the last remaining orphan became of age in 1923, and no longer the charge of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Reverend George F. Bragg, pastor of St. James Episcopal Church in West Baltimore, who had preached to the orphans of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum, hosted the girls on major religious holidays, and founded his own orphanage for boys, reflected on Johns Hopkins’ intent.[60] Reacting in the Afro-American to the intense criticism in the paper over the closing of the orphanage by the Johns Hopkins Hospital Trustees, he defended the Hospital in a letter to the editor headlined “Regardless of Race The Johns Hopkins Hospital is for the Poor of the City Regardless of Race”. Quoting the March 10, 1873 letter to the “trustees,” he wrote;

The late Johns Hopkins, anticipating the needs of the colored poor of the city and state, made for them the same provision established for all others. If we have neither the sense or the courage to stand up and earnestly contend for what is right and just, then let us, at least not blame others.[61]

By 1930, however, Reverend Bragg was less sanguine in another letter to the editor of the Afro-American:

Your reference to the Johns Hopkins foundations brings to mind a matter upon which many colored citizens desire light and information. No doubt the trustees of Hopkins can furnish the necessary information.

Why was the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum discontinued, and the property given over to a department of the Johns Hopkins University, or Hospital? such an institution was in existence, for the undersigned often visited it and conducted religious services for the inmates.

The trustees of the great Hopkins foundation can not afford to ignore this matter. In the presence of so many Negro orphan cildren in this community the public should be advised with respect to the failure of the Johns Hopkins Negro charity.

George F. Bragg, Jr.[62]

The issue, to Bragg, was not so much the abandonment of an orphanage for colored girls as it was the failure of the Hospital Trustees to follow through on the intent of Johns Hopkins to provide a home-like setting and appropriate education for indigent African-American orphans. The majority of the Hospital Trustees lent their support to the idea of social services and foster homes for orphans, but they left the implementation to the City and State. Nor did they adopt a program of training African-American Nurses for the Hospital or support a visiting nurse outreach to the African American community which could have worked in concert with Social Services to identify and place African American orphans in foster homes. For over fifty years the Hopkins Trustees did attempt a bowdlerized version of what was clearly Johns Hopkins intent, the care and education of 300 orphans of both sexes, reducing his dream to at most an annual residency of 75 girls intended for domestic service. To be fair, the Hospital also established a school of hygiene and public health and did extend its service further to the Black community with Harriet Lane’s endowment while the Hospital persisted in providing care, albeit segregated, without regard to color. It is also true that the 1904 fire obliterated the rental properties that Hopkins had allocated for the support of his vision under the trusteeship of the Hospital.

As to the 50 year experiment of funding an orphanage, the only mystery remaining is the fate of the girls. A few are known to have disappeared into domestic service. Where they were first employed is known. A few others were disciplined by sending them to Melvale, and to an out of state ‘training” school, but not a single orphan who left the Johns Hopkins Orphan Asylum, except those who died there, can be traced through the stories of their lives to their final resting place.

Whatever Happened to Birdie Shine?

Birdie Shine is a case in point. For a brief moment in 1902 her life at the orphanage became very public as her mother tried to use the courts to have her released into her custody.[63] Birdie was apparently quite happy at the orphanage. She won at least one medal for her work there and evidently did not want to leave.

Birdie came to the Orphanage on August 24, 1897 at the age of 9 on the order of a local Justice of the Peace, William F. Clark, who said she was “suffering through neglect and immoral habits of the mother, Martha Shine.” According to the President of the Board of Lady Managers of the Asylum, Hannah M. Polk, ever since Birdie had been “tenderly cared for … and given the advantages not only of a comfortable home and home training, but a religious and moral education as well.”[64] The courts decided for the Orphanage and Birdie remained never to be heard from again.

[cornish death certificate along with the bill]

The challenge to the genealogist and family historian seeking the life stories of the orphans at the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum is a difficult one. The records of what happened to the girls are sparse. The Johns Hopkins Medical Archives provides a few glimpses, from glasses for the girls who were to attend Hampton Institute, to coffins and burial in Laurel cemetery for those who died at the Asylum (for example Teresa Cornish, who died at the age of 7). There is even a record of one boy born at the Asylum who was placed in foster care by the hospital. But for the vast majority of the ‘inmates’ as they were referred to on the Census schedules, their fate is still unlearn'd.[65]

[1] Hacsi, Timothy A. Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1998.

[2] Professor Zamora does not mention the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum and confines her analysis to three orphanages that cared for white children. For Richard B. McKenzie’s work see:

[3] Dr. Wilson’s study is online at: Margaret S. Brogden does provide some very helpful facts about the administration of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum in “Changes in the Work of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum,” published in the Johns Hopkins Nurses Alumnae Magazine, February 1920, XIX, #1, pp. 21-23, which is available at the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives, along with her equally useful notes on the Asylum that she gleaned from the surviving records of the Hospital including the minutes of the Board of Trustees. Unfortunately the admission records and individual files for the residents that were at one time in the care of the Social Work Department are no longer extant. The Maryland State Archives has also published a helpful timeline of benevolent giving at, but it too fails to mention the Hopkins Asylum.

[4] See: Grace Keech’s report on the Asylum in the Twenty-fifth Report of the Superintendent of the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the Year Ending January 31, 1914, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1914. Grace Keech was the Social Worker assigned to follow through on the care of the remaining orphans until they reached their majority. The best study of the national trend away from orphanages to private and state subsidized welfare is Building the Invisible orphanage, A Prehistory of the American Welfare System by Matthew A. Crenson (Harvard University Press, 1998).

[5] 15th Report of the Superintendent of the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the year ending January 31, 1904, p. 43.

[7] Baltimore Sun, April 11, 1901.

[8] Study of Public Health and Hospital Service, Baltimore, Maryland [preliminary draft] by Joseph W. Mountin, A. w. Fuchs, J. O. Dean, and Sophie C. Nelson, Washington, D. C., United States Public Health Service, 1931, pp. 109-110. Author’s collection, autographed copy originally owned by Huntington Williams.

[9]Hardwick, Katherine D. Jeffrey Richardson Brackett, "Everyday Puritan". Boston: Privately printed, 1956. <>. and . [need to cite Brackett biography here]

[11] See Timothy A. Hacsi, Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Univ. Press, 1998.

[12] See the reports available at: 40and In 1912, under President Taft, the Children’s Bureau was established as a Federal agency, but prior to the 1930s did not provide any reliable statistical assessment of the number of neglected children in the nation deserving of public or private assistance and care. For an introduction to the Children’s Bureau see: “Children’s Bureau,” by Kriste Lindenmeyer at: Homer Folks in The care of destitute, neglected, and delinquent children (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1907), provides tables derived from the the 1880 and 1890 census of the charity care of non-delinquent children nationwide, but makes no effort to assess the demographics of the need. A White House Conference in 1908 attempted to address what needed to be done and how to do it, but failed to provide meaningful statistics on the extent of the need. See Matthew Crenson, Building the Invisible Orphanage, ff.

[13] Twenty-First Annual Report of the Baltimore Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor, Baltimore: Innes & Company, 1870. Author’s collection.

[16] Quoted by Jane Sears, “Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum,” Maryland TAMS Journal, Vol. XXVI, no. 4, Winter, 2005. See:

[18] quotes from the Baltimore Sun, “The Johns Hopkins Charity: Enthusiastic Mass Meeting of Colored Citizens,” April 9, 1873. Reverend John Sella Martin was best known for his speech to the PARIS ANTISLAVERY CONFERENCE (1867). “John Sella Martin was born into slavery in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was carried to Georgia and escaped from there to the North in 1856. Martin lived successively in Chicago, Detroit and Buffalo, where by that point he was a minister and led a church in the city. By the early 1860s Martin was minister of the Joy Street Baptist Church in Boston and a prominent abolitionist speaker. Martin traveled to England three times to promote the antislavery cause and on August 27, 1867, he addressed the Paris Antislavery Conference as a representative of the American Missionary Association.” See also: He was also known for his defense of John Brown in a speech he gave in Boston in 1859:, and The Liberator, December 9, 1859.

[19] See:, pp. 331ff. See Chesney, Alan M., and William H. Howell. 1958. The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: A chronicle : Vol. 1-3. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, v. 1, p. 69 for the decline in the annual income from the endowment and the impact on the building program of the Hospital. Nowhere does Chesney even mention the Asylum in his three volume work. He simply makes it clear that the Trustees felt they could not afford to build the main hospital as they intended, let alone undertake the Niernsée plan for the Asylum.Purchase of the Frederick Road property..

[20] There were a few boys cared for at Biddle Street, but none on 31st Street. Jane Sears in an historical introduction to two tokens that were used at the orphanage as incentive reward for the residents, provides a brief history of the orphanage from its days on Biddle Street to the closure of the 31st street facility as an orphanage (See: Jane Sears, “Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum,” Maryland TAMS Journal, Vol. XXVI, no. 4, Winter, 2005,

The Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum did not technically cease operation until the last girl under contract reached the age of 18 in 1923. This account of the asylum is indebted to Jane Sears for her carefully documented note cited above, although she apparently did not consult the records at the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives. The Johns Hopkins Medical Archives is an extraordinary archives staffed by a most helpful team of professionals who made the surviving records of the asylum readily available for my review. (See:

[21] Judge Harlan’s notebook, pp. 181-184, The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Collection JHH, Sub-series 2.a.2

[22] See the table of residents in the appendix.

[23] According to Clyde C. Rohr, “The Hopkins Orphan Asylum began its activities during the war as a shelter for colored children, notably contrabands (i.e. negro slave refugees from the Southern States) and chiefly by efforts of members of the Society of Friends. After Mr. Hopkins death in 1873, its management was assumed by the trustees of the fund for colored children, provided in his will.”p. 669, in Baltimore Its History and Its People, edited by Clayton C. Hall, volume 1, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912. Rohr is not quite accurate. The initial shelter was for “Orphans of Colored Soldiers and Friendless Children of Baltimore City and the care of colored orphans was supported by funds provided by Johns Hopkins before his death in 1873. See the Session Laws of Maryland, 1882, Special Session, Chapter 317 for the legal history of the shelter.

[24] Baltimore Sun, Thursday, February 6, 1873

[25] ibid.

[26] ibid.

[27] So far, only one orphan from the 1880 Census, Emma Smith, has been found to have married and had children.

[28] SIXTH REPORT OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL For the Year ending January 31, 1895. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1895, pp. 17-19. The Annual Reports of the Superintendent are partially available online through Google Books and and provide an administrative overview of the operations of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum from 1894 to its dissolution in 1913. I am grateful to the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives for providing copies of the annual reports that are not on line.

[29] What the boys in the neighborhood of the Asylum thought of the girls on the hill at 31st Street is not known, but a photograph of of Jacob Yeagle who lived nearby and his classmates, standing well dressed and angelic on the steps of a school, identifies each of them by name. Their lives can be traced beyond childhood. The lives of the orphans at the asylum cannot, nor has a single photograph of any of the girls been found.

[30] The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Records of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Colored Orphan Asylum, Committee on the colored Orphan Asylum, Collection JHHCOA, Series A, 1898-1905.

[31] In 1910 there was one four year old resident, Amelia Haskell, who proved to be non-conforming and by 1917 ended up at the House of the Good Shepherd, placed there by the Juvenile Court. This was the same reformatory to which the Juvenile Court sent Billy Holiday in 1925. According to one source “In 1925 Billie, age ten, was ordered by the juvenile court to spend a year in the Baltimore House of the Good Shepherd for Colored Girls on account of truancy. When she got out, she was placed with the neighbors for Christmas Eve, and she was raped there. Thus once again she was sent to the House of the Good Shepherd.”

[32], p. 69. In 1896 Bishop William Paret records that on December 15th by request of the Trustees of Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum, and Institution under the care of the Friends, I took Pastoral charge of the same, establishing a Sunday Service and Sunday School. Said Evening prayer and addressed the children.

[33] When the orphanage was closed to new admissions in 1913, not all the trustees committee on the Colored Orphan Asylum were pleased with the decision. On page 217 of the Minutes of the Hospital Board it was noted that some members disturbed over the proposed changes to the asylum and that “the original purpose of the Colored Orphan Asylum to train servants should not be wholly given up.”

[34]See Appendix. As research progressed on the history of the Asylum, much was learned about how the residents were cared for, and about the nature of their religious and secular education, but very little could be discovered about the lives of those who reached their majority there, once they left 31st Street. Perhaps with the publication of their names here with what little is known about them individually, more biographical details will emerge. [cite source for the census records; cite gem of an archives at PE cathedral, etc.]

[35] Baltimore Sun, 31 October 1895, p. 6.

[36] [note who HH Webb was--importance of association as well as content]

[37] Cite proceedings at LOC

[38] Mary Kay Wilson touches on the history of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum in her dissertation “Dear Little living Arguements” Orphans and other Poor children, Their Families, and Orphanages, Baltimore and Liverpool, 1840-1910, University of Maryland, Ph. D., 2009. She argues that the men of the Board of Trustees through the Committee on the Colored Orphans Asylum actually administered the asylum and its affairs. It is not clear that this was the case beyond holding very tightly to the purse strings. Both of her examples relate to how much money the Trustees were willing to allot to the running of the Asylum, which never reached the amount per year that Johns Hopkins intended. Still, Dr. Wilson provides an interesting comparative study utilizing the Annual Reports of the Lady managers and the Matron. It is ultimately the policy change from institutional care to social services and foster home care that brings this era of orphan care at Johns Hopkins Hospital to a close. In that policy change the Trustees were influenced by the Social Services Department which was run by a number of very outspoken and dedicated women as can be seen by the reports of what happened to the residents of the asylum on its closure in 1914. While the term ‘domestic science’ was not used in the reports to the Trustees until 1904, it was said to have been first introduced into common parlance between 1895 and 1900, meaning the study of cooking, needlework, and other subjects concerned with household skills. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: July 9, 2017).

[39] When Sarah Isabella and her two daughters moved to Baltimore, her sons remained in Franklin City, Virginia.

[40] Baltimore Sun, April 14, 1910. Sarah Isabella was so identified with the Asylum that the Sun mistakenly referred to her as ‘colored.’

[41] "Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999," images, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Baltimore City > Will books 1910 vol HWJ, no 107 > image 284 of 620; Hall of Records, Annapolis.’ Find A Grave Memorial #35041469 (

[42] 1923 was when the last former resident reached her majority of 21. While the apparent contract for admission (no copies have survived) set 18 as the year residents would be put out to service, Judge Harlan, a Trustee and chairman of the Board, advised the Trustees that they had an obligation until the individual reached the age of 21. See the Annual Report for the year Ending January 31, 1913.

[43] Based on her analysis of a small Roman Catholic orphanage for colored girls in Baltimore, Nurith Zamora calculates that the girls there cost on average $250 a year. See: Richard B. McKenzie, ed., Home Away from Home, The Forgotten History of Orphanages, New York: Encounter Books, 2009, p. 196.

[44] Matron’s report in the 15th Report of the Superintendent of The Johns Hopkins Hospital for the Year Ending January 31, 1904, p. 45.

[45] The “government” of the George Junior Republic issued its own currency in tin and later in aluminium, and “American” money could not be passed within the 48 acres of the Republic until 1906, when depreciation forced the Republic’s coinage out of use and “American” coin was made legal tender.

[47] It ceased to exist in 1917 and ultimately became the property of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services. See “New Relevance for the Junior Republic,” Washington Post, March 19, 1995.

[48] Baltimore Sun, “Training in Thrift,” June 3, 1899 and Youths Companion, February 22, 1900. The Sun got the address wrong for the Asylum. It was on 3st Street, not 30th, and Mary, not Ellen, was the assistant Matron.

[49] Baltimore Sun, August 23, 1908.

[50] Clarissa’s death certificate.

[51] see below

[52] Men of Mark in Maryland - Biographies of Leading Men of the State. Johnson's Makers of America Series. IV. Baltimore, Washington and Richmond: B. F. Johnson. 1912. p. 94.

[53] For a list of the girls who were confirmed see the appendix.

[54] for Dr. Winslow see:, which quotes the New York Times obituary,; also the obituary in the Bulletin of the University of Maryland School of Medicine 1936-1937, p. 168,, and

[55]1870 Enoch Pratt donates 700 acres in Prince Georges County to found the House of Reformation and Instruction for Colored Children (Cheltenham). Before this time African-American boys, some as young as eight years old, who

committed crimes were routinely confined in jails and the state penitentiary.”

[58] Thomas B. Turner, Heritage of Excellence, p. 325. According to Turner, Trustee Glenn was, with Charles P. Emerson, largely responsible for bringing the first paid social worker to the Hospital in 1907. Annie Scoville clearly felt she could confide in him and seek his support.

[59] Beecher Family Papers, MS 71, series 1, Folder 999, Yale University, Manuscripts and Archives.

[60] Bragg’s orphanage notes re

[61]Afro-American, August 8, 1925.

[62]Afro-American, November 22, 1930.

[63] Anne Arundel County Circuit Court (Petitions) Birdie Shine #328, 1902 [MSA C128-9], Maryland State Archives.

[64] Ibid., Deposition of Hannah M. Pope, president of the Board of Lady Managers of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum.

[65] lyrics. What details can be gleaned for the known residents are in the roster that follows which is derived in large measure from the census records for 1880, 1900, and 1910, supplemented by information from the Johns Hopkins Medical Archives.