This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
A third type of service to receive state aid before 1860 was the relief of orphaned or friendless children. In 1857 the Orphan Asylum of Lancaster received an unconditional grant of $1,000 annually for four years,120 and in 1858 an orphanage at Pittsburgh received a similar grant. *121 Both institutions had received an appropriation at an earlier date and these grants were ostensibly made to fulfil an old obligation. In the same year, however, an unconditional grant was made to an orphange that had no such claim upon the bounty of the state, *122 and in the following year still another was added. *123
116 Act 17 April, 1853, P.L. p. 342.
118 Act 17 April, 1853, P.L. p. 342.
119 See acts making appropriations for buildings, 18 May, 1857, P.L. p. 569; 21 April, 1858, P.L. p. 381; 12 April, 1859, P.L. p. 551.
120 Act 21 April, 1857, P.L. p. 274. 121 Act 19 April, 1858, P.L. p. 343.
122 This grant was made to the Northern Home for Friendless Children. Although it was primarily an orphanage, the courts were authorized to commit to its care vagrant children who were likely to become criminals. Act 21 April, 1858, P.L. p. 382.
123 Act 12 April, 1859, P.L. p. 552.
In 1859 a fourth type of service received aid. In that year the legislature made an appropriation of $5,000 to the Penn Asylum for Widows and Indigent Single Women. *124 This was a distinctly new departure. The blind, the deaf mutes, the insane, and neglected children had long been recognized as deserving aid by the state. Furthermore, in the case of the first three classes, remedial treatment could be most effectually administered in specialized institutions. Hence there was good ground for state assistance. But the Penn Asylum was purely a local charity, operating in Philadelphia, and the service that it performed was practically that of general poor relief. There was no more reason, as far as can now be discovered, for subsidizing it than there would have been for assisting all the other public and private agencies then engaged in poor relief. In other respects also the grant was an unusual one. No subscription from individuals was required and no obligation was imposed as to the number of charity inmates that should be received. Neither control nor audit by state officers was provided for.
The institutions for the blind and the deaf mutes and the House of Refuge at Philadelphia continued to receive increasing appropriations throughout this period. In 1850 a house of refuge, similar in purpose to the older institution at Philadelphia, was established at Pittsburgh. *125 The state gave $20,000 for buildings with the usual stipulation that an equal amount should be contributed by private subscription. *126 But as was also usual, this amount proved insufficient to complete the buildings and the institution came back, in 1854, with a request for further assistance from the legislature. An additional grant of $20,000 was made with the requirement that individuals should subscribe the same amount. *127 It is impossible to ascertain whether the private subscriptions were not collected, or whether the cost of the buildings had been underestimated, or whether the officers asked less in the first place than they knew would be required to complete their plant. The fact that it was an almost certain method of obtaining additional funds from the legislature to urge that an earlier appropriation would be wasted unless more money should be supplied, justifies the conjecture that the officers of such institutions did not always represent the cost of the buildings correctly. It is also possible that after the subvention was secured the plans were altered. To prevent the recurrence of such situations the legislature, in 1861, required the officers of the Farmer's High School to exhibit a contract which bound a reputable builder to complete the building for the estimated sum before the subvention should be paid. *128 Whatever the cause, the fact remains that in far too many cases the state was practically forced to make additional appropriations for permanent improvements by the plea that half-built plants were useless and in their unfinished state were being destroyed by the elements. The failure of the legislature to require all institutions that asked assistance in building to show definitely that the work contemplated could be finished for the estimated cost, thus resulted in wasteful methods. In many cases, it also resulted in larger appropriations than might otherwise have seemed advisable to the majority of the General Assembly.
124 Act 12 April, 1859, P.L. p. 552.
125 Act 22 April, 1850, P.L. pp. 539-542. The title of this Act reads: "An Act, To secure the Cities of Pittsburg and Allegheny and the neighborhood thereof from damage by gunpowder, to incorporate an association for the establishment of a house of refuge for western Pennsylvania; and relative to the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital."
127 Act 16 March, 1854, P.L. p. 173.