New York House of Refuge
The New York House of Refuge was the first juvenile reformatory in the United States. During its one hundred and ten year history, from 1825 to 1935, the House of Refuge pioneered the treatment of juvenile delinquents and served as the model for other reformatories. Its efforts in training and rehabilitating juveniles were praised by such social critics as Dorothea Dix and Jacob Riis.
The New York House of Refuge's records provide researchers with the opportunity to consider a range of historical and social issues. Records were produced reflecting all aspects of the institution's operation: government by the Board of Managers; policies and procedures implemented by the administration; and the life of inmates as they attended school, received training, and were paroled. Administrative records reflect the changing attitudes and practices in the treatment of juvenile crime. Innovative techniques for detention, education, and rehabilitation of juveniles were implemented at various times in the institution. Inmate records suggest the socio-economic nature of juvenile crime and delinquency. A very personal view of individual inmates is available, documenting the successes, strains, and failures of the institution's efforts to reform juvenile offenders.
The substantial records of this institution are preserved in the New York State Archives and described in this guide. The records include over 350 volumes (100 cubic feet) of meeting minutes, reports, inmate case histories, and other documents. Upon its closing, the New York House of Refuge's records were sent to the New York State Vocational School under the supervision of the State Department of Correction. In 1960 the records were placed on loan at the Syracuse University Library. The State Department of Correctional Services transferred them to the New York State Archives in 1977.
This guide is designed to assist researchers in identifying records of interest. A brief history of the New York House of Refuge provides background information on the historical and institutional context. This is followed by description of the documents in groups called record series. Series are records created together to accomplish or document a specific function of the organization. Finally, a list is provided of those record series which have been microfilmed and therefore are available on interlibrary loan or for purchase.
All of the records described in this guide are available for research use at the New York State Archives. Records less than 75 years old that contain personal information about inmate, family, social, education, and medical background are restricted. Researchers must apply for special permission to use these records.
Many of the records have been microfilmed and the microfilmed copies are available on inter-library loan unless they contain restricted personal information. They are also available for purchase at cost of duplication. Microfilming of selected records and preparation of this guide were supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The series descriptions for this guide were prepared by Elisabeth Golding; the guide was compiled by Kathleen Roe.