Sad Stories from the New York Foundling Hospital

The New-York Historical Society has a collection of records from the New York Foundling Hospital. Among the collection are five scrapbook of notes from parents and others about children who were left at the Hospital. Most are simply heart breaking. I spent an afternoon copying a selection that I plan to research. I picked ones that had some information to go on, and names that were at least a little unusual. Maybe I’ll be able to track down the families and learn whatever became of them.

Here is a letter from a father who kept writing about this son (more below).

New York Foundling Hospital

Sadly, I didn’t need to research what became of him. His last letter says it all.


I’m not including the one I’ve already started to research. I found the family, but not the baby yet. But here are a couple more.

New York Foundling Hospital

New York Foundling Hospital

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

4 thoughts on “Sad Stories from the New York Foundling Hospital

  1. Oh….those just rip your heart out, don’t they? I always suspect that people think poor people, especially poor people with lots of kids, don’t love them with any intensity. This rather puts the lie to that theory, doesn’t it? And the woman trying to get her baby back after the man took it to the Foundling hospital…Jesus. It’s always been a hard road for women, hasn’t it?

  2. I find it incongruous that someone articulate and with the means to type a letter (in those days) would also be in such a bad way that they would have to give up a child, or know someone whose child was given up and couldn’t help them (the McDonald letters), and at the same time, hope that he would grow up and be a comfort to its parents. My imagination seems not able to grasp those circumstances. I agree with C.Reader, it rips your heart out.

  3. I should have mentioned this, but the letters were transcribed at one point, the originals were not typed. Maybe some of them were, but I took pictures of the typed transcriptions because they were easier to read.

    These aren’t even the saddest, necessarily. I took pictures of the ones I had some shot at being able to research. I sat and read almost all of them, five scrapbooks full, and it was horribly sad. Person after person begging for some word about their child, or asking if they can visit. It killed me.

  4. Oh, thanks for clarifying that! No wonder I was confused. 🙂 But yes, now they are even sadder. 🙁

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