The Society for Seamen's Children

The Society for Seamen’s Children

In the spring of 1846, New York’s East River waterfront was thick with the spars of myriad ships in from distant ports.

Trade was brisk and far-reaching, and many a sailor, leaving wife and children behind, departed for a long voyage to face hardship and danger.

The Society for Seamen’s Children Some never returned, and the ir families were left destitute.

A few people took note of these unfortunate ones, however, and some ” benevolent ladies,”

 meeting on 2 April 1846 in the Brick Church on Beekman Street, determined to form a society ”

to afford relief and protection to the destitute children of seamen ,

by providing an asylum for them, with proper arrangements for their health , comfort, and education.”

Staten Island was selected as the location for the home for the children,

 because of its ” salubrity of air, convenience of access and remove from the temptation and expense incident to a city residence.”

The first home was established for twenty-four children in a rented house in Port Richmond.

Within six years, the ladies had raised enough money to build a home large enough for one hundred children on five acres of land rented from Sailors Snug Harbor.

For most of the Society’s first century , money for the support of the children

came largely from private subscription of individuals and shipping interests.

After the tum of the century , and until the demise of the great ocean liner fleets,

the Society benefitted from collections taken at concerts and entertainments held aboard ships of the great passenger lines.

From the beginning, the Society’s directors looked upon institutional care as a poor substitute for family living,

and efforts were made to ” board out ” children with people who could give them a home and teach them a trade.

From 1858 on, with the help of the Children’s Aid Society, many of the older children were given the opportunity to live on farms in the Midwest.

Over the years, the Society has adapted its program in other ways, and as social welfare programs came into being,

the needy childre n of seamen no longer requ ired the exclusive ” relief and protection” of the Society.

Gradually, the Society has broadened its scope to provide for children of non-seamen and whose care is requested and paid for by the City of New York.

Today, over 250 children are in the care of the Society for Seamen’s Chi ldren.

All foster chi ldren live in private homes and increasing numbers of them are be ing ado pted by their foster parents.

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