Archives Guide ~ Public Institutions (8500)

Historical note

With the establishment of the House of Industry in 1823, the responsibilities of the Overseers of the Poor were limited to “out-door relief” or relief provided outside of public institutions. The Directors of the House of Industry were responsible for “in-door relief” or support in the public institution. Prior to 1857, the House of Industry and House of Reformation were under the charge of the Directors of the House of Industry. The House of Correction was under the charge of the Overseers of the House of Correction.

From 1857 to 1885, the public institutions were in charge of a Board of Directors, twelve in number; from 1885 to 1889, in charge of a Board, consisting of nine members; from 1889 to 1895, in charge of the Board of Commissioners of Public Institutions, three in number. By Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895, the institutions were placed under the charge of one commissioner, known as the Institutions Commissioner.

By Chapters 395 and 451 of the Acts of 1897, the control of the institutions was divided, and they were placed under the Children’s Institutions Department, the Pauper Institutions Department, the Insane Hospital Department and the Penal Institutions Department.

Chapter 7 of the Ordinances of 1920 abolished the Penal Institutions, Infirmary, Children’s Institutions and Institutions Registration Departments and consolidated them into one department called the Institutions Department under the charge of one commissioner. Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1924 re-established the Penal Institutions Department separate from the Institutions Department.

Section 35 of Chapter 2 of the Ordinances of 1954 abolished the Institutions Department, including the office of the Commissioner of Institutions. The powers, duties and appropriations of said department in relation to the commitment of the insane and to Long Island and the institution thereon belonging to the city were transferred to the Hospital Department. The powers, duties and appropriations of the Institutions Department in relation to all other matters were transferred to the renamed Welfare Department, formerly the Public Welfare Department.

Chapter 138 of the Acts of 1991 abolished the Penal Institutions Department and the post of Penal Institutions Commissioner. The House of Correction at Deer Island was decommissioned upon the opening of the new facility at South Bay. The House of Correction is now under the charge of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.



8500.001 Annual reports 1857-1928 with gaps 38 volumes

Scope and Contents note
Includes copies of annual reports of the Board of Directors of Public Institutions, 1857-1886 and 1888; Commissioner of Public Institutions, 1890-1891, 1893-1894, 1897, and 1928; Superintendent of Marcella Street Home and Nursery, 1888 (includes photographs); Children's Institutions Department, 1896, 1901-1920; Institutions Registration Department, 1901, 1913-1915; and one bound volume of City Documents relating to the Lunatic Hospital, Inspectors of Prisons, Directors of Public Institutions and Rules and Regulations, 1863-1869. Annual reports can also be found in the City Documents series.

Link to finding aid: Children's Institutions Department



8500.002 Lantern slides circa 1910-1920 36 slides

Scope and Contents note
Collection of lantern slides of views of buildings and inmates of the Suffolk School for Boys (House of Reformation) on Rainsford Island.

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8500.003 Photographs 1946 17 photographs

Scope and Contents note
Photographs of trip taken by administrators of the Institutions Department and Long Island Hospital to Prawl's Island, New York to take possession of the LT 462 which was renamed the James M. Curley.



8501 Institutions Department

Historical note
The origins of the Institutions Department date back to 1823 with the establishment of the House of Industry. By Chapter 449 of the Acts of 1895, the public institutions were placed under the charge of one commissioner, known as the Institutions Commissioner. By Chapters 395 and 451 of the Acts of 1897, the control of the institutions was divided, and they were placed under the Children’s Institutions Department, the Pauper Institutions Department, the Insane Hospital Department and the Penal Institutions Department.


8501.002 House of Industry inmate registers 1858 January-1897 April with gaps 25 volumes

Historical note
Chapter 26 of the Acts of 1822 established the House of Industry in the City of Boston as a workhouse for able-bodied poor. By Section 9 of Chapter 536 of the Acts of 1896, the House of Industry was established as a house of correction for the county of Suffolk and designated as the House of Correction at Deer Island.

Scope and Contents note
Includes registers and indexes for the inmates who were sentenced to the House of Industry on Deer Island. The registers cover January 1858 through April 1897 with four gaps. The gaps appear at June 1865–August 1869, April 1876–November 1879, September 1881–
August 1882, and September 1894–August 1895. Registers list name, age, color, birthplace, marital status, literacy abilities, date, wherefore, number of mittimus, sentence, date of expiration, number of times admitted previously and manner of discharge. After 1879, register also lists court.

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8501.100 Boston Almshouse and Hospital patient registers 1853 November-1914 August with gaps 3 volumes

Historical note
A Home for the Poor was constructed on Long Island in 1887. Male paupers were moved from Rainsford Island to the new building on Long Island in 1888. The Hospital building was erected in 1893 and 1894. The Homes for male and female paupers were consolidated on Long Island in 1894. The Boston Almshouse and Hospital furnished full support to poor persons having a legal settlement in Boston and hospital care and treatment for those afflicted with chronic illness. The name “Boston Almshouse and Hospital” had been found to be a deterrent to the admission of many worthy people who felt stigmatized by the term “almshouse”. On December 14, 1924, with the approval of the Mayor, the name of the entire institution was changed to “Long Island Hospital”. On June 1, 1954, the Long Island Hospital was transferred from the Institutions Department and became the Long Island Division of the Hospital Department.

Scope and Contents note
Includes two registers and one index. The registers cover the dates November 1853 through August 1914. The dates of the index are January 1893 through August 1914. The Registers record the name of persons who entered the Almshouse along with a register number, age, place of birth, date admitted, date discharged, whether the person was discharged or died, and sometimes a few brief remarks.

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8502 Penal Institutions Department

Historical note
A Penal Institutions Department was initially established by Chapters 395 and 451 of the Acts of 1897, which divided the control of the city's institutions. The Penal Institutions Commissioner had charge and control of Deer Island, the House of Correction at South Boston
and the House of Correction at Deer Island.Chapter 7 of Ordinances of 1920 abolished the Penal Institutions Department and again consolidated the public institutions into one department called the Institutions Department under the charge of one commissioner. Chapter 9 of the Ordinances of 1924 re-established the Penal Institutions Department separate from the Institutions Department. Chapter 138 of the Acts of 1991 abolished the Penal Institutions Department and the post of Penal Institutions Commissioner. The House of Correction at Deer Island was decommissioned upon the opening of the new facility at South Bay. The House of Correction is now under the charge of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.


8502.001 House of Correction records 1848-1970 with gaps 148 volumes

Historical note
In October of 1823, a House of Correction was organized temporarily in the North Jail on Leverett Street for the confinement and labor of lewd, idle and disorderly persons sentenced by the Police Court. By Chapter 28 of the Acts of 1824, the House of Correction in the City of Boston was established as the House of Correction for the County of Suffolk. The House of Correction was located in South Boston until 1896. By Section 15 of Chapter 536 of the Acts of 1896, the House of Correction at South Boston ceased to be a house of correction after all the prisoners sentenced there were transferred to the former House of Industry on Deer Island which was designated the House of Correction at Deer Island or discharged. The last inmates were transferred from the South Boston facility by 1902. The House of Correction was located on Deer Island until 1991 when it was transferred to its current location at South Bay. The House of Correction houses inmates convicted of crimes with sentences of 2 ½ years or less.

Scope and Contents note
Records of the House of Correction from 1848 through 1970, with the bulk of the dates covering 1878 through 1970. Includes inmate registers, indexes, log books, various financial records, as well as pardons and permits.

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8503 Children's Institutions Department

Historical note
By Chapters 395 and 451 of the Acts of 1897, the control of the city's institutions was divided, and they were placed under the Children’s Institutions Department, the Pauper Institutions Department, the Insane Hospital Department and the Penal Institutions Department. The trustees of the Children’s Institutions Department had charge and control for the house of employment and reformation of juvenile offenders, known as the House of Reformation at Rainsford Island, the Parental School for Truants at West Roxbury and the Home for Pauper and Neglected Children on Marcella street, Roxbury. They also had charge and control of children placed in country homes and the general supervision of children placed in institutions throughout the State, for whose care the city paid. Chapter 7 of Ordinances of 1920 abolished the Penal Institutions, Infirmary, Children’s Institutions and Institutions Registration Departments and consolidated them into one department called the Institutions Department under the charge of one commissioner.


8503.001 Marcella-street Home register of sentenced inmates 1877 April-1898 November 1 volume

Historical note
The Marcella Street Home was located on the site of the former almshouse of the City of Roxbury. In 1876-1877, additions and alterations were made for the accommodation of pauper boys and neglected male children. In 1881-1882, new buildings were completed to accommodate the pauper and neglected girls formerly housed at Deer Island. Children were sentenced by municipal and district courts under Chapter 283 of the Acts of 1866. They were also admitted by permit of the directors of Public Institutions. The home closed on November 22, 1898 when all the children left in the home could be placed at once with families.

Scope and Contents note
Register of those children who entered the Marcella-street Home from its opening in April 1877 through its closing in November 1898. Includes register number, date of birth, place of birth, date of admission, date of discharge, father’s name and place of birth, mother’s name and place of birth, residence when admitted, religion, sentence, to whom the child was discharged, physical description, as well as any general remarks.

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8504 Insane Hospital Department

Historical note
Chapter 451 of the Acts of 1897 established the Insane Hospital Department which had general care and control of the Boston Lunatic Hospital and all other hospitals the City had established or would establish for the care and treatment of the Insane, and the same would be known as the Boston Insane Hospital. By Chapter 613 of the Acts of 1908, responsibility of care of the insane was transferred to the Commonwealth.


8504.002 Boston Lunatic Hospital patient register 1839-1854 1 volume

Historical note
The Boston Lunatic Hospital was established by Chapter 131 of the Acts of 1839. It was built on First Street in South Boston in 1839. Two wings were added in 1846. In 1887, the former Home for the Poor at Austin Farm became an outlying ward of the Boston Lunatic Hospital for chronic and mild cases of insane persons. In 1892, the City purchased Pierce Farm on Walkhill and Canterbury Street and built two hospital buildings. Two new hospital buildings were also built at Austin Farm. By 1895, all patients housed in the hospital at South Boston were transferred to Austin and Pierce Farms. The men were housed on Pierce Farm and the women were housed on Austin Farm.

Scope and Contents note
List of patients who entered the Boston Lunatic Hospital between December 1839 and February 1854. A note on the first page of the volume states that this list was compiled from the monthly reports submitted to the Board of Visitors of the Hospital by the Superintendant of the Hospital. There are also a couple of pages of printed text, which list the members of the Board of Visitors for the years 1853 and 1854.

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