Almshouses and Poor Relief in the 18th and 19th Century



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 some more... and then even more bones. 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 house the Erie County Poorhouse, also called the Erie County Almshouse. These bodies belonged to inmates of the poorhouse, who had died while housed in this institution 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 century.