New York City's Emigrant Savings Bank Loans to Build a Catholic Infrastructure circa 1870 to 1910

Kurt Schlichting, Fairfield University

The New York Public Library’s Digital Humanities initiative includes an online digital archive of over 7,842 mortgages by the Emigrant Savings Bank (ESB) from 1850 to 1910. Founded in 1850 by members of the Irish Emigrant Society, the bank served the needs of the Famine Irish immigrants those that followed. Of the 500 largest loans, 24% were to build Catholic Churches and 18% to Catholic religious orders for orphanages, schools, and seminaries. The totaled $ 32 million and enabled building an extensive infrastructure of churches, schools, rectories, convents and asylums. The Sisters of Charity opened the NY Foundling Asylum on 68th St between Lexington and 3rd Ave in 1869 with ESB loans. In the 1880 Census, the Foundling Hospital cared for 1,004 children, from babies to 5-year olds. The history of public welfare in the City of New York is a complicated combination of public workhouses and “lunatic” asylums and private charities. In 1875 New York Stated passed the “Children’s Law”, which forbid sending children between 3 & 16 to public poor-houses. In turn the City would pay private asylums for care. The Law provided public funding to Catholic institutions. In 1875, the NY Foundling Hospital, serving 1,470 children, received $ 188,026 from New York City, 62% of total receipts and $ 127 per child for the year. With funding from the city and private donations the Sisters of Charity paid $ 19,000 to the ESB in 1975 and $ 26,000 in 1976. In turn the ESB had a steady stream of safe loan income to pay their immigrant depositors interest. Public funding to Catholic institutions drew harsh opposition. An article in the NY Times in October of 1875 thundered “Sectarian Schools: How the People of the City Support Them – Tammany Hall Giving Millions to Catholic Institutions.”

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 37. Institutions, Health, and the Environment