Scope and arrangement
Minutes of the Commissioners of the Alms-House and Bridewell, dated 1791 August 22 to 1797 October 16, record the proceedings of the Commissioners' weekly meetings at the Almshouse, and quarterly meetings attended by supervising New York City officials. Proceedings concern the Commissioners' management of the two institutions and outdoor relief services during a period of growing need, but are chiefly devoted to Almshouse affairs and their review of individual cases of indoor and outdoor relief. Other documented responsibilities include the oversight of medical services provided, and the indenture of poor children as apprentices, especially the investigation of cases of their ill-usage or misbehavior. The name of Samuel Dodge, keeper of the Almshouse, appears on the inside front cover.
The minutes document the Commissioners' oversight of the "support, government and employment" of persons under their care at the Almshouse and Bridewell. Outdoor relief activities include the distribution of food and fuel during winter months and visits to the poor at home, reported as needing temporary assistance.
General administrative concerns include the allocation of space to deal with overcrowding and other needs; contracting with provision suppliers; hiring and management of staff, including apothecaries and physicians; oversight of medical care at the institutions; temporary closure of the workhouse; and management of the Almshouse school. There are also brief accountings of expenditures and projected costs for the Almshouse and Bridewell, and sales of workhouse products such as oakum.
The minutes record the circumstances of many individual cases requiring decisions by the Commissioners or further investigation by committee members. The binding out of children as apprentices and cases of their ill-usage or misbehavior are particularly well-documented; the boarding of infants with wet-nurses is also mentioned. A number of cases are reported where ill and impoverished persons living at home are given temporary aid. The Commissioners also approved travel expenses for Almshouse residents wishing to leave the city, and sought to charge persons capable of paying for the City's support, either for themselves, or persons for whom they were responsible. This included obtaining payment or indemnifying bonds from masters of vessels leaving sailors or passengers in port. In just a few instances the minutes record the Commissioners' review of medical care given to particular Almshouse residents, since amputations could not take place without their approval. The cases of black men, women and children in a variety of circumstances are also encountered in the minutes. The situation of persons in the Bridewell is only occasionally discussed.
Brief summaries of committee reports are sometimes present. The Commissioners' report to City government on the state of the Almshouse and Bridewell appears in the entry dated February 2, 1795; it was also entered under that date in the City's Common Council minutes (published 1917).