Monthly Archives: January 2016

Poor Relief in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Not long ago, a story in the University at Buffalo student newspaper caught our attention: during construction work on a portion of campus, workers came across some human bones. And then a few more bones… and then even more. In all, the UB archeologists and anthropologists uncovered 380 bodies, and estimate that something like 2000 may remain beneath the soil. It turns out that this part of the campus once housed the Erie County Poorhouse, also called the Erie County Almshouse. These bodies belonged to inmates of the poorhouse, who had died while living in this institution for impoverished members of the Buffalo area. This got us thinking: what were poorhouses like? What options existed for a person who was down on his or her luck in the past? Join Averill, Sarah, and Marissa as they discuss the history of poor relief in the United States and Great Britain in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.


“Please sir, I want some more!” | From The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby & The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, London : Chapman and Hall, [1875?]

Show Notes and Further Reading 

Alice Harper’s story came from Minutes of the Overseers of the Poor of the City of Philadelphia, June 30, 1768, Philadelphia City Archives.

An Introduction to South Campus

Bones Found in UB South Campus Excavations Reveal History of the Land

Begin the Development of University Heights, Get a Street Named After You

Daily Occurence Dockets, taken from the following volumes: March 29, 1794 – September 28, 1795 and September 1790 to March 1792, Philadelphia City Archives

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist1839.

Erie County Almshouse & County Hospital

History of South Campus, University at Buffalo

Historical Background: Poor Law and Charity, London Lives 1690-1800

Katz, Michael. In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

On UB campus, stories from old almshouse are pieced together from the bones left behind, The Buffalo News 

Over the Hill to the Poorhouse

Polanski, Roman, et al. Oliver Twist. Culver City, Calif: Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2005.

The Poor DeadArt Voice

Wagner, David. Poor Relief and the Almshouse

Wagner, David. The Poorhouse: America’s Forgotten Institution. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005.

Jewett, Sarah Orne. “The Flight of Betsey Lane.

Erie County, NY Poorhouse History

Feature Image: “Erie County Almshouse.” | Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library / New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Music: “Heart and Mind,” by Kai Engel | Free Music Archive.

Mini Cast: Snow and the City

Well, and snow in the country … and in the small towns. Actually, snow everywhere! 

How does severe weather – specifically blizzards – impact the lives of Americans? It can have positive affects, such as providing a shared bonding experience for community members (as we know all too well here in Buffalo). It can change the outcome of politics and influence city planning and urban management. Of course, it can also leave tragedy in its wake. In this episode, Tommy, Dan and Sarah discuss some famous historic storms and their human toll.


The Blizzard of 1977 hit upstate New York fiercely, making roads nearly impassable.| Public Domain /Wikimedia Commons

Show Notes & Further Reading 

Applebaum, Yoni. “Blizzards and the Birth of the Modern Mayor.” The Atlantic, January 25, 2015.

Christiano, G. J. “The Blizzard of 1888; the Impact of This Devastating Storm on New York Transit.” NYC Subway.

Grabar, Henry. “The Secret History of Snowstorms: How Blizzards Shaped the Modern American City.” Salon, February 1, 2015.

McKelvey, Blake. Snow in the Cities: A History of America’s Urban Response. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1995.

Laskin, David. The Children’s Blizzard. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.

Shepard, Richard F. “Recalling the Blizzard of 1888.The New York Times, January 14, 1988.

Wade, Jared. “A History of Blizzards.” Risk Management, February 1, 2011.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. New York: Harper Tribute, 2007.


Feature Image: Extracted from King’s Handbook of New York City by Moses King, 1893 | Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons

Turning the Page with Jonathan Dewald


Dr. Jonathan Dewald, University at Buffalo

Tommy and Marissa interview Jonathan Dewald, a historian, blogger, and Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, about his highly anticipated new book, Status, Power and Identity in Early Modern France: The Rohan Family, 1550-1715. The result is a fascinating discussion about the Rohan family, which lived across eras that historians understand as vastly different. What can one family teach us about change over time?


Henri duc de Rohan | Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Show Notes and Further Reading

Dewald, Jonathan. Status, Power, and Identity in Early Modern France: The Rohan Family, 1550-1715. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

Jonathan Dewald, “The Early Modern Period.”

Davis, Natalie Zemon, The Return of Martin Guerre. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1983.

De Vries, Jan.  The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Lepore, Jill. “Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography.” The Journal of American History 88.1 (2001): 129-44.

Sweet, James H.  Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Walkowitz, Judith R. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

You can find Dr. Dewald’s blog here, and you can purchase his new book through Pennsylvania State University Press and other book sellers.

Background Music: “Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major for Oboe and Orchestra Andante,” performed by Advent Chamber Orchestra. Public domain from the Free Music Archive.

Feature Image: Image from Henri duc de Rohan, Memoires of the Duke of Rohan, Gabriel Bedell and Thomas Collins, 1660.Public Domain.