By Veronica Bagley and Justin Veda
What exactly is a home for friendless children? We chose to focus on this postcard because of its name; we were curious to see what classified a child as “friendless,” or if the name of this institution may have changed over time.
This home began in 1884 as a day nursery for women and was previously located on the city’s Franklin Street, but it later served as both a day nursery and a home for children whose parents could not provide care. The Home outgrew its original Franklin Street facility, and reopened in its new location at 1010 Centre Avenue under the name “Home for Friendless Children” in 1888.
The purpose of the home changed to meet the needs of the community over time, as it was in operation during both world wars and during the influenza epidemic. Its main purpose, however, was to provide temporary shelter and instruction to orphaned children. In 1947 the name of the facility changed to “The Children’s Home of Reading” to better describe its new focus on treatment, education, and counseling. It is still in operation today with a focus on offering treatment rather than custodial care for over 650 children and families each year.
Homes for Friendless Children were common during the late 1800s and early 1900s. For example, another Home for Friendless Children was established in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1862 to care for children who were left fatherless after the Civil War. This institution, too, underwent a name change. In 1929 it became the “Children’s Home” because trustees did not feel that the children there were “friendless.” Today the institution is no longer serving as an orphanage, but as a non-profit for support of the Children Service Center of Wyoming Valley, Inc., which is a mental health center for children and adolescents.
A quick Google Search shows results for many other institutions with similar names, such as “The Home for Friendless Children of the Eastern Shore of Maryland” (opened in 1871 and now operates as “The Children’s Home Foundation”), or the “Camden Home for Friendless Children” in NJ (opened in 1865, and changed to “Camden Home for Children” in 1946).
So why call it a home for “friendless” children? From researching other institutions with similar names, it is unclear as to why they were called “homes for friendless children,” but they all underwent name changes that removed the word “friendless.” They generally served as homes for children without parents who could provide care, but in the example of the Home for Friendless Children in Wilkes-Barre, PA the name was changed because “because the trustees felt that these children were not ‘friendless’ but in fact had a great number of friends.”1
The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.