Orphanages

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo

Those who believe in the good old days and believe that, overall, things are getting worse in society are likely ill-acquainted with what life was like in the great cities of England and America during the late 19th century and early 20th century. With almost no government run social services to fall back on, the poor lived a hard scrabble life.  As usual, those who suffered the most were  the children,  who often represented an impossible burden to an impoverished family.

Thousands of orphaned and abandoned children were left to fend for themselves in great squalor and poverty.  Few did anything about it.

One man that did care was Dr. Thomas Barnardo, (4 July 1845 – 19 September 1905) an Irish born British philanthropist. Shocked by the poverty and appalling living conditions of children throughout the British Isles, Barnardo set up a series of homes for orphans and foundlings.

The first of the “Dr Barnardo’s Homes” was opened in 1870 in London and by the time that Barnardo died, in 1905, there were 112 such homes established. It is estimated that during his career, Barnardo saved 60,000 children.  The Barnardo organization still exists in England.

In 1893, the Strand Magazine, which described itself as “An Illustrated Monthly” ran an article about Barnardo and his orphanage. Pictured below is what the article described as Dr. Bernardo’s Babies’ Castle in Hawkurst. At the time of the article, 1893, Barnardo ran 28 such orphanages.

A Phorotgraph of Dr. Barnardo's Babies' Castle

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo's Babies' Castle

The magazine included an obviously staged photograph of a foundling supposedly dropped off at the front steps of the orphanage.  The caption reads: “To Dr. Barnardo With Care”

An Orphan Dropped off at Dr. Barnardo's Orphanage

An Orphan Dropped off at Dr. Barnardo's Orphanage

Barnardo Orphans Praying Before Bedtime

Barnardo Orphans Praying Before Bedtime

Less obviously staged were the pictures of the inside of the orphanage and the nurses and children who lived there.

In the picture to the left the orphans are depicted praying before bedtime. The Barnardo organization cared about instilling virtues in its young charges. While the Barnardo home offered love and protection to the children, the conditions were still not ideal by today’s standards. Notice the overcrowded communal living. The children are all in beds with metal railings in a single room.

Meals were also communal. In this picture the children are eating heir meals in the large dining hall.  The article describes the portions for the children as abundant, so at least this was not an Oliver Twist style workhouse.

Orphans Eating Dinner

Orphans Eating Dinner

The younger children were given nap time in the afternoon as this picture illustrates:

Nap Time at the Orphanage

Nap Time at the Orphanage

The orphanage was run by nurses and religious sisters.  Here are some pictures of the staff:

Sister Alice

Sister Alice

A nurse at the orphanage giving a bath.

A nurse at the orphanage giving a bath.

A Quiet Pull

The Nursing Staff at Barnardo's Home for Children

The Nursing Staff at Barnardo's Home for Children

The pictures below are interesting in many ways. The children certainly appear well cared for. There is no apparent malnutrition and they are wearing nice clothes. It is also interesting that the pictures depict the faces and identities of the children,  which speaks to the different concepts of privacy that existed back then.

A picture of the orphans attending school at the orphanage.

A picture of the orphans attending school at the orphanage.

The children say goodbye to the reporter on the steps of the orphanage

The children say goodbye to the reporter on the steps of the orphanage

And so, like the picture above, it is time to say goodbye to this piece of history.

Old Photographs

In this photograph contruction workers balance precariously on the exposed girder of a skyscraper under construction. Note the complete lack of safety equipment or harnesses.

In this photograph contruction workers balance precariously on the exposed girder of a skyscraper under construction. Note the complete lack of safety equipment or harnesses.

IllustratedPast.com is an archival project which collects and catalogs photographs and drawings showing what life was like from the 1800s to the early 1900s. These photographs and  illustrations document a world very different than our own: the American Western Frontier was still untamed and Native Americans continued to live traditional lifestyles. In the great cities of the American East Coast, electric lights and trolleys were just beginning to replace gas lights and horse drawn carriages. Technology was advancing at a dizzying pace, compared to the previous centuries, but it was still steam based and very primitive by today’s standards. There were no airplanes or computers, and the telegraph was the main means of communication. The horseless carriage had been invented but it was still not clear if it would ever be practical enough to replace the horse or the steam locomotive.

Russian peasants in pre-Revolution Russia draw water from a well.

Russian peasants in pre-Revolution Russia draw water from a well.

In Europe, the great capitals such as Paris and London were as now the centers of fashion and culture, but there was also great disparity in wealth and social status. Photographs of London and Paris show the contrast between the glittery world of the high society, and the squalor in which the poor and disenfranchised lived.

In the East, many societies such as China and India had not yet broken with their feudal past. Photographs made by travelers reveal a world very different than the technologically advanced West.

This website is still taking shape but when it is completed you will be able to take a photographic tour of the past.

Image Categories

  • People
  • Places
  • Things
  • Illustrations
  • Children’s Illustrations
  • Fantasy
1 41 42 43