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Circular of the City Council on Retrenchment,
and Report of the Commissioners of the Orphan House:

Electronic Edition.

Charleston (S.C.). City Council.
Committee on Retrenchment and Relief.

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First edition, 1999
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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

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Call number 2135.1 1861 (Rare Book Collection, UNC-CH)

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Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998

LC Subject Headings:


Title Page


No. 3 Broad and 103 East Bay Street.

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CHARLESTON, Aug. 7th, 1861.

To the Chairman and Board of
Commissioners of the Orphan House:

        GENTLEMEN: At a regular meeting of the City Council, held on the 16th July, it was referred to the Committee on Retrenchment and Relief, to inquire and report in what manner the Corporation's expenses can be reduced to meet the necessities, and relieve as much as possible the burden of Tax Payers while the country is in a state of war.

        At a meeting of the Committee, the Chairman was instructed to address a circular to all the different Boards of the City, respectfully asking of them to take the matter into consideration, and report if any reduction of expenditures in the different departments of the Institution under their charge can be made, and in what manner it can be accomplished.

        The Committee are confident that there are none in our community who will more readily and cheerfully co-operate with the City Council in this desirable object than the Board of Commissioners of the Orphan House.

        An early report to the Chairman of the Committee will be duly appreciated.

Very respectfully,



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        The Committee on Retrenchment and Relief who were instructed by resolution of Council to inquire and report what corporation expenses, if any, can be reduced, beg leave to make the following report:

        The committee deemed it proper in the beginning of their inquiries to address a circular to each of the Boards of Commissioners of the different Institutions of the city, asking their co-operation in the desirable object that Council had in view, and if any reduction in expenses could be made in the institutions under their charge, in what manner it could be accomplished.

        As the report from the several Boards of Commissioners in reply to the communication from the committee are of much interest, not only to the City Council but to the citizens at large, they are made a part of this report.

        [Extract from the Minutes of the Board of Commissioners of the Orphan House, September 7, 1861.]

        Resolved unanimously, That the report of the Committee on Retrenchment, to whom was referred the communication from E. W. Edgerton, Esq., Chairman of the Committee of Council, dated 7th August last, be adopted, and that the chairman be requested to transmit the same to said committee as a reply to their communication.

ORPHAN HOUSE, Charleston, September 10, 1861.
E. W. EDGERTON, Esq., Chairman of Committee on Retrenchment and Relief:

        DEAR SIR: In obedience to the foregoing resolution, I have now the honor to enclose the report referred to therein, which I

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trust will be found to embrace all the information sought by your note of 7th ult. With great respect, your obedient,


Chairman pro tem.

        The Committee on Retrenchment, to whom was referred the letter transmitted by the City Council, soliciting a special investigation by the Commissioners of the Orphan House into its economics, in order to discover whether it be not possible, by a more rigid economy, to lessen the burthen of its expense to the public, and to return an answer at their earliest convenience, beg leave to state that, duly impressed with the importance of the inquiry, they have endeavored to fulfil the duty which has been assigned them.

        For the more minute examination of the subject they have considered it under three heads, viz: Service, Food and Raiment, as the expenses of the establishment will be found arrayed mainly under these.

        The Institution now consists of three hundred and sixty orphans, one steward and family, one matron and family, one principal of the school and eight teachers and assistants, three dependents, nine nurses and one hospital nurse and assistant nurse, two assistant seamstresses, eight washers, two cooks, one engineer, and four servants--making an entire population of four hundred and seven persons. The cost of the whole establishment for 1860, as charged by the city treasurer, is $34,734 18, and for 1861, $35,079 19--though the actual cost to the city is only about $25,000; a uniformity of expenditure which of itself bespeaks economy.

        The first question to be answered then is, can any of this service be dispensed with? Let us put each in its place and see. There is one male officer for the entire supervision, discipline and provisioning of the whole; and one matron for general management and direction; these are, of course, essential. There are in the school one principal, and eight teachers and assistants, for three hundred and thirty pupils; being one teacher to about forty children; and their united salaries do not amount to $2,000; giving a tuition cost of about $6 for each pupil per year. When it is considered that this is the best school of its kind in the Confederacy, and the cheapest in dollars and cents, it becomes us to be satisfied, and to endeavor to preserve it as is. One officer and two assistants direct and arrange all the

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work of the sewing department; teach over one hundred little girls from seven to thirteen years of age to sew, and incidentally to make and mark (with the occasional aid of a cutter and other assistants, when needed for the heavy suits of the larger boys) about eight thousand garments of various sorts inclusive of bed and table linen, towels, the trimming of hats, and the innumerable repairs and jobs always necessary in such a family. It does not seem then that any retrenchment can be made in this department of our expenditures.

        But one nurse is allowed to a dormitory, and she is responsible for its order, and for the care of from thirty to forty-five children; is required to attend upon them at meals and at all times and occasions; to be with them at night; to mend their clothes and to take charge of their wardrobes generally. They are thus employed by night and by day, and no one of them, accordingly, can be spared.

        The fourth officer directs the operations of the laundry, and with the aid of eight washers, and the required machinery, receives, washes, irons, assorts and returns punctually and properly, four thousand seven hundred, or five thousand pieces weekly or fifty dozen, or six hundred pieces, to the hand. It may be doubted if any laundry in the country can show better results, and at less cost, than this.

        One cook prepares all the food for three hundred and sixty children, and another for the rest of the household, inclusive of the sick. One engineer directs all the machinery and mechanical operations of the house; and one porter, acting also as gardener, takes charge of the gate, garden, cemetery and grounds generally. These are all demanded by the positive necessities of the Institution, and, with the physician's salary, cost about $10,550.

        Next is food. Three simple meals are allowed per day. Avoiding the dull detail of statistics and accounts, let us allow for each child six cents as the average per day for three meals, and twenty cents for each employee. Surely, no one would wish to curtail this already scanty allowance. The cost of food for the establishment, at these rates, is then $10,950.

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Of Steward of Orphan House of the present actual daily Cost of Food
for Children in September, 1861.

        $19 74 [divide] 359 children=5 1/2 cents each.
Beef, veal and bacon, for one week, $46 25[divide] 7days= $6 61 per day.

        The subject of raiment alone remains for examination. Let us here also pass by book details of articles, their cost and number, and content ourselves, with a view to brevity, with the remark, that three and one half suits per year is necessary for each child, consisting of a heavy winter suit for the boys, and flannel for the girls, summer suits and under clothing, aprons, shoes, hats or caps, etc. An entire suit, inclusive of hat or cap and shoes, cannot be had for less than $4 50. Three and a half suits will then average $15 75 per year for each child; and three hundred and sixty children will cost $5,654 for the same period. These items expose fully to view our economics, but do not suggest to your Committee any object for retrenchment. They enable them, however, with a few additions, to account for, and balance, the debit against us on the City Treasurer's books, viz:

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        The balance, about $2,000, is spent for accidents, anniversaries, books, burials, church, and crockery, and an interminable number and variety of demands always incident to so large an infant family; a sum, of course, scarcely adequate to such necessities. But the Board dispenses a portion of the income from a "Private Fund," which has been left to them in trust for the benefit of the children, and in this way are enabled to make good all deficiencies and contingencies. For instance: Council allows the special sum of $1,200 for educational purposes, about one-half of what is positively necessary; the balance being supplied from this fund. This, of course, cancels so much of the above account, increasing proportionally the reserve for sundries. It is in this way that accounts independent of each other become blended. It ought not to be overlooked, however, that this "Fund" is a bequest from the honored dead to the Board of Commissioners, sacred to the execution of the purposes which have been mentioned. It is they, therefore, who supply whatever extra advantages and privileges are enjoyed by the children of the Institution. It is they who, without stint or limit, sustain our admirable Sunday School. It is they who provide a master to teach them to sing so sweetly, and give us our instrumental music on the holy Sabbath. It is they who supply the exigencies of those who are sent to College, or who study for the ministry. It is also they who provide premiums for the diligent and faithful. It is they who, in like manner, tenderly furnish a little marriage portion to our meritorious girls, and a timely help to our boys at their first steps into life. It is they who furnish encouragement and recreation to our well; change and delicacies to our ill; and a grave to our dead. Peace be to their ashes! all honor to their memories!

        But let us return, and take a comparative view of our main subject. Unfortunately, the records of this Institution do not enable us to run a parallel of statistics for any extent; but from it the glimpses which we can obtain of those of the "Old House" and its management, we do derive some comfort and consolation in view of what has been accomplished. It thus appears that the entire cost of a child in 1852 and 1853, the last years of the "Old House" and its regime, was respectively $126 63 and $124 17, while the entire cost of a child in 1860 and 1861, under the reformed condition of the new, is respectively

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$106 22 and $101 97; showing a difference in favor of the latter of $20 and $22 20 per child, notwithstanding the inflated war prices which are attached in these latter years to articles of common consumption. These, if multiplied by the number of children in the house, are equal to a very respectable interest on the investment for improvement; by calculation being over five and a half per cent.

        But the records of the School having been better preserved, enable us to present a more detailed comparison of the operations of this department, at the two above periods, with their expenditures (not results); the developments of which are both instructive and valuable. We place the items in tabular lines to facilitate comparison:

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        It thus appears that the scholars have increased two and a fifth times; that the School is much more faithful in gathering in the children, inasmuch as a much greater proportion are numbered therein now than formerly; that three per cent. of the A B C class, against forty per cent., evinces the greater rapidity with which they are advanced through the elements; that the cost of books is three hundred per cent. less than formerly; that the salaries and other costs are forty per cent. less, though the number of pupils is twice and a fifth greater; that the actual saving is nearly equal to the present salaries that the former cost of tuition and books for each child, of twenty-four dollars, is reduced by the new system to six and a half, making difference in favor, of the new, which, multiplied by the number of children now taught, would be equivalent to four per cent. on the entire outlay for improvements; or which, had it been productively invested from the inauguration of the new system until now, would have been more than sufficient to support the School permanently. But this is not all; could the moral, educational and physical superiority be similarly contrasted, it would exhibit differences beyond comparison. The results, however, are sufficiently apparent. It has immeasurably elevated the Institution in the pride and affections of the people, and caused the stranger to honor the city itself, on account of this striking. expression of its nobleness. But, alas! its very excellencies have awakened the jealousies of some who are unacquainted with its economics. No complaint of extravagance, however, has ever been heard from those who are familiar with its merits.

        The present views of the working and management of this noble Institution, it is to be hoped will not fail to impress all with the conviction that this Board has been not only anxious and sedulous in its efforts to secure the welfare of the children and the public interest, but has wisely and successfully accomplished it. That they have at least imparted vigor, faithfulness and economy to every one of its departments, is apparent, they think, in the fact, that now, in the day of trouble and reckoning, when called upon to contribute to public economy, they have no retrenchment to suggest. They have thus gone minutely through our whole role of service, and shown everywhere accomplishing more than could have been expected, or exacted by any ordinance or contract. For where

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else is there to be found a School that will teach successfully and satisfactorily, and furnish also books, for one dollar and sixty-two and a half cents per quarter? Where else do infant children make seven-eighths of the family clothing after school hours while learning to sew? Where else will a nurse take entire charge of forty children, and do as much, as well, and indeed everything for them? Where else will one hand wash and iron, and properly assort and deliver eight dozen pieces per day upon an average? Where else will one cook, properly and punctually, prepare the food for three hundred and sixty persons? It is vain to look here then for supernumeraries or retrenchments.

        Turn we then to our regimen. We accordingly find for breakfast a plate of hominy, a drop of molasses, and a cup of milk-- and water tea, costing say, two cents; for dinner, soup meager and rice, meat, rice and peas at a cost of two and a half cents; and for supper a slice of bread and a cup of milk and water tea, costing a cent and a half. Neither of these can be reduced without superinducing hunger.

        A like economy is enforced with respect to the clothing. The cloth is carefully selected by judges, bought advantageously at wholesale, well made up, well cared for, and well worn. Children are proverbially hard upon their clothes: but play is a part of their health, as indulgence is of their discipline. To reduce the quality, therefore, we must either increase the quantity, or otherwise incur exposure. They seldom wear shoes except for dress or during cold weather.

        After a most careful survey of the whole field, the Committee have, they regret to say, failed to find the object of their pursuit. It would, nevertheless, have afforded them a sincere pleasure to have been able to contribute somewhat at this trying moment to the public relief; but truly, the orphans have nothing to contribute. Nor is the Board more fortunate; for they enjoy no privileges or indulgences at the City cost, but on the contrary, often furnish encouragements to the children from their own means, and instead of enjoying a yearly dinner at the public expense, as is usual and proper, have invariably given one to the friends of the Institution on its anniversary.

        With a familiar knowledge of all the facts which have been elicited by the communication from the Council, the Committee

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are at a loss to account for the existence of the idea entertained by some, of the extravagant administration of the moneys placed at the disposal of the Commissioners by the City, unless it be the manifestation of order and cleanliness which habitually obtain throughout the house, or the aspect of taste which is ever present where the ideal that sustain it is not absent from the mind of its supporter. These cost nothing, however, in a material point of view. They belong to another element, and it would be uncivilized to bar the doors against them.

        But although unable to retrench, we may suggest to you two considerations for effecting the purposes of Council. The first is to limit our admissions to a severer necessity, than has been hitherto conditioned; the second, as the period comes round for binding out, to apprentice the children as fast as justice to them will permit, to the industrial engagements of life.

        In conclusion, your Committee are forced to the conviction --a conviction confirmed by increased intimacy with the working of the Institution, that there exists nowhere, one more excellent in its conception, or which is more faithfully administered in every respect. In confirmation of this they confidently refer to the amount of actual misery daily relieved; the character and extent of that relief; the wide scope of its charity; the present importance and ever-extending influence of the results achieved; and the intelligence and spirit with which it has been conducted.

        In this connection it is encouraging to allude to the number who, since they have left us, have, in the last few years, been seeking to become physicians, apothecaries, surveyors, merchants, factors, printers, engineers, plasterers, carpenters, bakers, shoe makers, harness makers, as well as votaries of all the mechanical or other employments; to those also who have gone into the pursuits of the country, or army or navy; as well as to the girls who have given us like cause for gratulation.

        Scarcely a day, Sunday not excepted, but one or more of the members of this Board are in attendance upon the Institution, notwithstanding its general charge is committed to one in weekly rotation, and its leading interests are besides specially confided to zealous committees. It may be true, nevertheless as sometimes asserted, that in the admission of children

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by the Board, they have been sometimes imposed upon. But this can only happen by violating the sanctity of an oath, and deliberately and wickedly deceiving others than those that compose the Board. Such cases, however, are few, while they bring with them the consolation of knowing that little children have, not the less, been rescued from the domestic influences of such parents. We may err, but it is upon the side of charity.

        The Committee feel bound also to say, that the officers of the Institution are all apparently actuated by a similar devotion; and merit, as they do receive, the respect and confidence of the Board.

        They would further suggest, in view of all that has occurred and is occurring, the propriety of inviting and urging upon Council the propriety of visiting the Institution, collectively and individually, morning, noon and night, as may suit their convenience; of inspecting the Institution generally; of examining our books; making themselves personally familiar with our routine and economics; and thus, from actual knowledge, appreciate our labors, sympathise with our efforts, and rejoice with us in our benevolent achievements.

        Respectfully submitted,