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Orphanages or Orphan Asylums

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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a term applied to those philanthropic institutions which provide a home for orphaned children until their education or training has fitted them for safe contact with the world at large.

The history of the origin of orphan asylums is very uncertain. What the Romans understood bypueri (or puellce) alinentarii cannot properly be compared to our institutions called orphanages. Trajan, who did much to protect orphans, both the Antonines, and Alexander Severus, established foundations for them; but such institutions do not seem to have been frequent till the introduction of Christianity, which gave encouragement for the founding of so many institutions beneficial to mankind. SEE ASYLUMS; (See HOSPITALS).

In the Middle Ages orphan asylums became quite frequent, especially in thriving and opulent cities of the Continent, and einactments were secured in the Church to take proper care of children bereft of their parents (comp. Lea, Studies in Church History, p. 74). In Germany and Italy many orphanages date from the 16th and 17th centuries, but by far the most famous of the institutions which originated in that period is the Orphan House at Halle founded by A. H. Francke (q.v.) in 1698. In many respects it is the most noted of all orphanages. The Orphan House founded at Ashley Down, near Bristol, England, by George Muller (see his Life of Trust), stands perhaps second on the list. Both these institutions are noted not only for their extensive orphan labors, but also for their missionary enterprise at home and abroad. But while the former has largely devoted itself also to educational and business enterprises (see Hurst's Hagenbach, Church History of the 18th and 19th Centuries, 1:130, 140, 306), Muller's single and small Orphan House, founded in 1836, on his own premises, has grown to five orphanages, each one of extensive proportions, and each filled to its utmost capacity with indigent beneficiaries, and all these supported, not, as in the former, by endowment and traffic, but by unasked-for contributions to Muller; "all," as he believes "in answer to prayer and faith." The five orphanage buildings have cost over $500,000; the balance of the receipts has gone to meet the current expenses during the thirty-seven years of the history of the enterprise. Whatever has been received beyond what has been needed for present use has not been funded for possible future need for no future lack has been apprehended but has been immediately applied in missionary work in various parts of the country.

As many as 150 missionaries have been aided by the "surplus" funds. During the year ending May 26 1874, Muller received 37.855 15s. 6d., with which 189 missionaries and 122 schools were supported in whole or in part, 2261 orphans maintained, and 47,413 Bibles or parts of the Bible, and 3,775,971 tracts and books distributed. From the beginning up to May, 1874, he had instructed in all 38,800 children in the various schools entirely supported by the institution (as Mr. Muller is pleased to designate it), besides tens of thousands benefited in other schools assisted by its funds, not only in Great Britain, but in Spain, Italy, India, and British Guiana. Added to this, more than 467,000 Bibles and Testaments in various languages, and 50,000,000 religious tracts, have been issued and distributed through its agency, 190 missionaries supported year by year, and 4408 orphans brought up. In most of the institutions the care of the orphan is relinquished only to a competent person, usually one following a trade. The boy or girl, however, is more or less under the eye of the orphanage until the apprenticeship is satisfactorily completed. The Jews, noted for their philanthropic labors, have adopted this Christian institution, and have founded several large orphanages. One of their most noted is at Berlin, called the 'Auerbachsche Waisenanstalt."

The question of most consequence in relation to the public support of orphans is, whether it is best, in a moral, physical, and economical point of view, to bring up large numbers of orphans in great establishments where they live together, or to put them out singly in trustworthy families paid by the community (see Brit. Qu. Rev. Oct. 1875, art. v). In Germany this question was long and thoroughly discussed. and for a time the majority favored home-training; the asylum advocates have finally got the control, and orphanages are fast multiplying. Most of the governments of Europe now support orphanages. Institutions founded by private charity in many cases receive aid also from the government if they stand in need of it. In the United States orphans have received great consideration. We here distinguish three classes: (1) those supported by the national government; (2) those supported by single states; and (3) those supported by private (especially Church) charity. One of the most successful of the last named is the Howard Mission of New York City. A model orphanage on British soil is that at Erdington, founded by Josiah Mason at an expense of $1,500,000, and supporting over 300 orphans.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Orphanages or Orphan Asylums'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​o/orphanages-or-orphan-asylums.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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