The True Origin Of Modern Methods Of Scientific Charity -- By: Joseph H. Crooker

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 074:294 (Apr 1917)
Article: The True Origin Of Modern Methods Of Scientific Charity
Author: Joseph H. Crooker


The True Origin Of Modern Methods Of Scientific Charity1

Joseph H. Crooker

In the Tenth Annual Report (1873, p. 123) of the Board of State Charities of Massachusetts, the then Secretary, Hon. Edward L. Pierce (the biographer of Charles Sumner), described the Elberfeld (Germany) System of Poor Relief, organized there in 1853, by a prominent banker, Daniel von der Heydt. In 1869, under the leadership of Octavia Hill, the main principles of this system were applied to English conditions in the formation of the Charity Organization Society of London. These principles were first incorporated in our country by the Buffalo Charity Organization Society (1877), and then by the Boston Associated Charities in December, 1878. In all these cases the essential principles are the same, but the English and the American differ in details from the Elberfeld:

the latter is a municipal system where the work is done by men; the others are volunteer organizations largely in the hands of women.

The Elberfeld System became famous as the first movement in the line of Scientific Charity. It is so represented by prominent writers to-day. This statement is made in Bliss’s Encyclopedia of Social Reform (1908), in two articles, under the authority of Dr. Edward T. Devine. In the standard work on this subject, “Modern Methods of Charity” (1904), by Professor Charles R. Henderson, the Elberfeld System is fully described and honor is given to it as the pioneer in this field of philanthropy.

But this popular impression is a mistake. The credit is due to another German city. The true history of the origin of scientific charity is far different: it is longer, more elaborate, more interesting.

In 1882, I conducted a large class in Social Science in connection with my church work in Madison, Wisconsin. It was probably one of the first ventures in this line in the country. It was attended by state officials, by students and professors of the University, and the subjects discussed were: crime and criminal law reform; criminals and prison reform, insanity and asylums; hospitals, sanitation, and preventive medicine; defectives and juvenile delinquents; pauperism, the care of the poor, and poor-law reform.

When searching the shelves of the great Historical Library for material for these lectures, I came across a set of books: “The Pamphleteer” (London), which contained many rare and valuable documents. One of these, of some thirty pages, was entitled: “Account of the Management of the Poor in Hamburg between the years 1788 and 1794:. By Baron Von Voght. London: 1796.” A glance at once created, not...

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