Archives Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 1163, Whittier House Social Settlement, Jersey City, NJ
Records, 1894-1974, 8.25 linear feet
The Whittier House Social Settlement was founded by Cornelia Foster Bradford (1847-1935) in 1894. During the early years of the twentieth century, the Whittier House established a free kindergarten, health-care center for babies, dental clinic, lending library, and a legal aid society. It provided social services to Jewish, Polish, Ukranian, German, and Italian immigrants in Jersey City, New Jersey. Bradford retired from her position as headworker in 1928 and was replaced by Mary B. Freeland. The Depression brought financial troubles and the organization was merged in 1935 with the Boys' Club of Jersey City, Inc. Minutes of the board of directors meetings, 1920-1924; monthly treasurer's reports, 1920-1924; correspondence sent and received by the headworker, 1915-1924, 1929-1931; miscellaneous correspondence, account ledgers, brochures, and other records.
Additions to the collection include most of the annual reports of the Whittier House, 1894-1922; photographs, ca. 1900-1958, of the interior and exterior of the house, young women in a dressmaking class, young men in the pool room, and an assortment of photographs depicting children of all ages; cashbooks, 1918-1925; scrapbooks, 1915-1930; a "List of donors to Whittier House, 1894-1897;" and a "Cash Account of the Treasurer of Whittier House, 1894-1904."
Gift of the Boys' Club of Jersey City, Inc., 1981.
The records of the Whittier House Social Settlement total 8.25 linear feet and span the years 1894 to 1974. The papers were processed as part of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant project (1997-1998) to process, describe and catalogue the New Jersey Historical Society’s health care and social welfare-related manuscript collections.
Because of their poor condition, some of the original copy letters of Cornelia Foster Bradford have been replaced by photocopies in the collection. The originals have been retained and placed at the end of the collection, interleaved with acid free paper.
The Whittier House Social Settlement, the first settlement house in New Jersey, was established in Jersey City (Essex County) in 1894. Founded by Cornelia Foster Bradford, who would remain with the organization as headworker until 1926, Whittier House was based on the settlement house Toynbee Hall in England. Whittier House required its workers to maintain residence in the house, allowing them to interact with the largely poor, immigrant population of Jersey City, basing programs on their specific needs. Whittier House, named for Cornelia Bradford’s friend John Greenleaf Whittier, was located at 174 Grand Street.
An early resident, Mary Philbrook, the lawyer, social reformer and women’s rights activist, provided legal assistance to the poor. Other residents included: Mary B. Sayles, who wrote an article in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science on Jersey City housing conditions that led to the creation of a state tenement house commission; a U.S. child labor inspector; and representatives from the N.J. Board of Charities, Aid and Corrections, the N.J. Board of Children’s Guardians, and the state Consumers League.
Whittier House programs included the city’s first free kindergarten, a circulating library, a medical dispensary, a milk dispensary, and a diet kitchen for mothers and babies. Community recreation needs were filled by the only public playground in the city, a gymnasium, and a summer camp at Pomona, New York. Among the clubs and classes offered were sewing, cooking, drama, music, debating, English, elocution, and dance, as well as social clubs for mothers (the first woman’s group in the city), newsboys and young citizens. Whittier House also sponsored baseball clubs, a minstrel troupe, and classes in stenography and telegraphy.
Numerous Whittier House programs were taken over by government bodies, or provided the impetus for the creation of similar programs. Among the organizations and programs first developed at Whittier House were the Consumers’ League of New Jersey, Americanization in Public Schools (1919), the Laurel Hill Sanatorium, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the State Bureau of Immigration, the Hudson County Social Workers’ Association, and the Whittier House Branch of the Jersey City Public Library.
The summer camp at Pomona burned down in 1921. After Cornelia Bradford’s retirement in 1926, the headworker’s position was taken over first by Nels Anderson and, 18 months later, by Mary B. Freeland, who changed the focus of the organization from a settlement house to a community service center.
Financial difficulties led to a takeover by the Boys’ Club of Jersey City in 1935. Club activities were continued for both boys and girls, often with the assistance of the Works Progress Administration. The Whittier House name was officially changed to the Whittier House Boys’ Club in 1940, where the Jersey City Boys’ Club maintained residence until the building at 174 Grand Street burned down in 1981.
Provenance Note: The records were donated by the Boys’ Club of Jersey City, Inc., 1981.
The records, 1894-1974, of the Whittier House Social Settlement document the organization’s formation, philosophy, and programs, as well as its place in the social reform movement of the early part of this century. Other subject areas documented in this collection include women in charitable and social work, services for the urban poor, and the Americanization of immigrants.
The records are organized in six series: Minutes, Annual Reports, Correspondence, Financial Records, Photographs and Scrapbooks. The formation and earliest years (1894-1915) of Whittier House are documented primarily by annual reports, photographs and scrapbooks. There is no correspondence in the collection prior to 1915. Annual reports include narrative descriptions by club and program directors that provide detailed summaries of activities and organizational changes. Minutes, 1912-1941, also document programs, activities, funding and personnel changes.
A number of the records, especially financial papers, as well as some minutes and photographs, are those of the Whittier House Boys’ Club, the organization that took over Whittier House in 1935.
Series I: Minutes, 1912-1941.
Document the business of the board of managers and board of directors.
Includes treasurer’s reports, committee reports, and reports on Whittier House programs, including the vacation house, milk dispensary, dental dispensary, gymnasium, diet kitchen and music center. Topics also include the Americanization program, and legal assistance for the poor.
Series II: Annual Reports, 1894-1922 with gaps.
Includes reports on all Whittier House programs and activities, including the kindergarten, sewing school, legal assistance for the poor, the mothers’ club, a loan fund for the poor, classes (including stenography, bookkeeping, English, elocution, Latin, German, art, and dancing), a circulating library, and an occupational bureau to help young people find jobs. Annual reports include photographs of Whittier house residents, neighborhood children, club meetings, outings and the Whittier House facilities. Some annual reports are photocopies.Series III: Correspondence, 1915-1933.
Primarily the correspondence of Cornelia Foster Bradford. Letters concern fundraising (general and for the summer camp), the New Jersey Conference for Social Welfare (1921), financial difficulties, publicity, and the general administration of Whittier House facilities and programs. Includes communications with Jersey City mayor Frank Hague, Assistant Secretary of War Colonel Arthur Woods (1919), Ida B. Bacon, public school and parks officials, the N.J. State Home for Girls, and the Jersey Journal (a Jersey City newspaper).
Also includes correspondence of headworker Mary B. Freeland and Whittier House program directors.
Series IV: Financial Records, 1894-1974 with gaps.
Financial records of both Whittier House and the Whittier House Boys’ Club. Includes mortgages, land deeds, insurance policies, bank statements, correspondence, a list of donors (1894-1897), ledgers, investment records, receipts, check stubs and Whittier House Boys’ Club membership records (1928-1941) that record child’s date of birth, parent’s names, place of birth, occupation and church.
Series V: Photographs, ca. 1900-1965 and n.d. (bulk 1900-1930)
Photographs capture the Whittier House facilities, staff, neighborhood adults and children, and a wide range of programs and activities, including sewing, dressmaking, cooking and dance classes, the minstrel club, and the Young Men’s Club. Also, many photographs of children posing in groups, at the Pomona camp, in the gymnasium, on stage, and in a sack race. Adults are photographed in social clubs: men playing pool, and women playing cards. Also, photographs of Jersey City tenement houses and Whittier House exteriors and interiors.
Series VI: Scrapbooks, 1913-1931.
Scrapbooks document Whittier House programs, events, and anniversary celebrations through newspaper clippings, lecture fliers, newsletters and event programs and ticket stubs. Newspaper clippings are primarily from the Jersey Journal. Also, Whittier House fundraising materials, including pamphlets, appeal letters and postcards, and an Official Jersey City Guide (1927).
Miscellaneous items include a Whittier House Oswego Club booklet (1921), a fire escape repair contract, and United Neighborhood Houses of New York meeting materials.
OS indicates oversized volumes.
The New Jersey Historical Society