Guide to the Martin Luther Orphan's Home records,1887-1919

Descriptive Summary

Creator Martin Luther Orphan's Home (Boston, Mass.)
Title Martin Luther Orphan's Home records
Dates 1887-1919
Identification CC 2
Quantity 0.5 linear feet (1 manuscript box)
Collection Abstract The Martin Luther Orphan's Home records are arranged chronologically and include annual reports from 1887 - 1915. Annual reports include a list of the children in the orphanage, a list of donations, and financial reports.
Historical Abstract Founded in 1872 by Gottlieb Burkhardt, the Martin Luther Orphan's Home of West Roxbury, Massachusetts housed orphans and destitute half-orphans and educated them in the Lutheran faith. The Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for Works of Mercy operated the Orphans' Home until its closure in 1945.
Language Material in German and English.
Location Collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Archives staff for more information.

Information for Users

Access Restrictions

Collection is open.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

Publishing permission

Please contact the College Archivist with requests to publish any material from the collection.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item: description and date], Martin Luther Orphan's Home records, CC 2, Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA, USA.

Acquisitions Information

Transferred from the Simmons College School of Social Work Library, 1991

Accession number: 93.003

Processing Information

Processed by Sherri Kelley, March 1993

Supervised by Megan Sniffin-Marinoff and Peter Carini

This collection guide was encoded as part of the LEADS project by Rachel L. Dwyer, August 25, 2012

Organizational History

In March 1871, the Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church for Works of Mercy, a charity organization of the German Lutheran parishes of Boston, was chartered to operate the Martin Luther Orphan's Home. Its members were the German Lutheran parishes of Boston. The idea for an orphan's home did not originate from pastoral leadership but rather from a Roxbury parishioner and brewer named Gottlieb Burkhardt. Burkhardt was a German immigrant who made a vow, upon reaching America, that if he became wealthy he would distribute "God's" wealth to the poor. Inspired by orphanages managed by Rev. William Passavant of Pittsburgh and under the guidance of Pastor Otto Hanser, Gottlieb determined to fund a home for Lutheran orphans. On Nov. 10, 1870, Passavant and the Boston pastors met with Burkhardt to survey several sites of land and form an association. Brook Farm, once the site of a famous utopian transcendentalist community, was soon chosen as the optimum site and Burkhardt bought the land with a partial mortgage. After time was allowed for "God to show that His will lay behind the institution," the Home was dedicated on October 3, 1872.

The mission of the home was to raise orphans and half-orphans in a Lutheran home where they would learn the "true Word of God" and be confirmed in the Lutheran Church. Burkhardt and his followers their duty was to rescue orphan children who might otherwise grow up without a proper Lutheran education. Therefore, the Home primarily cared for children from destitute Lutheran families, though children of other backgrounds were also admitted. The children ran a farm and a cemetery, and sometimes cared for indigent elderly persons. In this way, boys learned farming skills farm and girls were trained in the domestic arts. In later years, they also emphasized the apprenticeship of their orphan boys either in their print shop, founded in 1890, or with local tradesmen. The Home operated until 1945 when it was shut down due to a negative evaluation of its effectiveness by an independent Lutheran charity board.

All information is taken from an undergraduate paper by Harvard University student, James Richardson entitled A Brief History of the Origin and Mission of The Martin Luther Orphans' Home (Das Martin Luther Waisenhaus)," Cambridge, 1993.

Collection Overview

The Martin Luther Orphan's Home records are printed in German and arranged chronologically.

All of the annual reports include a list of the children in the orphanage for each year, a list of donors and the amount of their donations, and a financial report of credits and expenses. A description of the orphans’ education and classes is included, as well as information on the number of children admitted to the Orphan’s Home or returned to their parents in the previous year.

It should be noted that the financial information in each report is printed in German and English. English translations are included in the introductory materials for the annual reports of 1887 and 1889.

Online Catalog Headings

These and related materials may be found under the following headings in online catalogs.

Charities -- Massachusetts
Martin Luther Orphan's Home (Boston, Mass.)
Orphanages -- Massachusetts
Orphans -- Massachusetts

Collection Arrangement

Arranged into one series:

Series I: Annual reports

Related Material

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I: Annual reports, 1887-1919 (16 folders)

Box 1

  • Folder 1: 1887 (Report and partial translation)
    • Folder 2: 1889 (Report and partial translation)
      • Folder 3: 1890
        • Folder 4: 1891
          • Folder 5: 1894
            • Folder 6: 1895
              • Folder 7: 1897
                • Folder 8: 1898
                  • Folder 9: 1901
                    • Folder 10: 1903
                      • Folder 11: 1904
                        • Folder 12: 1906
                          • Folder 13: 1909
                            • Folder 14: 1912
                              • Folder 15: 1913
                                • Folder 16: 1915