Posts Tagged ‘elite reformers’

was another problem turn-of-the-century child savers like Kelso and
institutional officials like Chester Ferrier, the longest serving
superintendent of the Victoria Industrial School, linked to boys’
deviant character. A careful study of the boys under his charge led
Ferrier to believe that tobacco use was overrepresented among
delinquent boys. According to the Superintendent, 60 per cent of the
in mates of the Victoria Industrial School were smokers. Ferrier
objected to the use of tobacco by boys since he was convinced it had
detrimental effects for what he called their “moral power.”
Tobacco use was, in his words, “destroying, and making criminals
of more of this class of boys than the saloons. It weakens the moral
power of the boy, so that the cigarette fiend readily yields to

Like truancy, the deception
associated with smoking worried justice officials most. According to
the Committee Appointed to Investigate the Present Juvenile
Reformatory Schools of Ontario, “younger and older, they [would]
commit acts of deceit or theft for the sake of a smoke – even a
butt.” Ferrier thought the level of dishonesty allied with
tobacco use would inevitably lead deviant youth down a path of
habitual criminality. He argued that the various stages smokers
passed through in concealing and furthering a smoking habit
contributed to their deviance:

Deception [was] resorted to in
the incipient stages of this habit. He must hide from his parents,
for a time at least, this harmful indulgence. He takes his first
smoke in secret. For this purpose he finds companions who are already
addicted to the habit and have taken their first downward step. He
thus becomes deceitful and untruthful.

continued to moralize about the evils of tobacco long after boys were
paroled from the Victoria Industrial School. For example, Tom M. was
a former in mate whom Ferrier worried would be brought back to the
institution as a result of his smoking habit. Tom was fifteen when
admitted to the School for vagrancy. Staff described him as a robust
boy who was illiterate. Ferrier received word that after being
released from the institution Tom was wasting his hard earned money
on tobacco. Concerned that smoking would lead to Tom’s return to the
institution, the superintendent wrote a letter to him warning of its

There is one habit which you
have very badly and which will be against you so long as you indulge
in it, and that is the use of tobacco. In a statement that Mr. U
furnished some months ago as to the money he had spent for you, there
was an item of $4.50 for tobacco. That seems such an extraordinary
thing that I could scarcely credit it.

But the cost of smoking was
not the only pitfall Ferrier saw for paroled boys. The use of tobacco
also brought boys into contact with other smokers who were invariably
undesirable characters from the dangerous classes. Ferrier told Tom
he was, “very much afraid that if [he] came to Toronto and still
continue[d] [to smoke he would] very soon get into trouble.” To
break boys of their deviant habit Kelso offered them substitutes for
cigarettes and rewards for quitting. While traveling to Toronto a
delinquent boy who was destined for a foster home incessantly begged
Kelso for a cigarette. Not wanting to contribute to the boy’s
delinquency, Kelso stopped at a local store and purchased a supply of
chewing gum as an alternative. After six months Kelso bragged the boy
had not returned to smoking. When placed in a foster home, Kelso
reported, another of his charges promised he would not go back to
smoking or chewing tobacco. For discontinuing his smoking habit this
boy was rewarded with a watch. Kelso and Ferrier lamented, not the
harmful chemical effects of nicotine on the body, but the injurious
impact smoking had for the character of youth. Since scientific
inquiry into the ills of tobacco on the body was still several
decades away, Kelso and Ferrier were concerned with other injurious
elements of consumption. Smoking was a bad habit or vice that was a
precursor to immoral character: habitual tobacco consumption brought
boys into contact with deviant others; to support their habit they
whittled away their income; and deception was required to conceal
their conduct from parents.

the smoking habit was lamentable, newsboys created even greater
anxiety among the elite classes. Their visibility on city streets
contributed to their centrality in schemes of regulation. According
to C. S. Clarke in his expose Of
Toronto the Good
“you can scarcely walk a block without your attention being
drawn to one or more of the class called street boys.” Kelso, in
testimony before Commissioners Appointed to Enquire into the Prison
and Reformatory System of Ontario in 1891, stated “the
profession of selling newspapers is in my opinion pernicious right
through.” Older newsboys held considerable influence over
younger more impressionable ones. When selling papers was not
sufficient, Kelso explained, these boys would persuade younger boys
to: “break a window or unfasten doors, and would steal silk
handkerchiefs and any fancy article of clothing that could always be
disposed of.” In this way, newsboys were dangerous and visibly
posed a number of problems Kelso and others found particularly

rates of criminality among working-class boys during the late 19th
century were not only the result of dramatic increases in youth crime
and truancy, but rather incidences of deviance were amplified by
greater vigilance brought about by Toronto’s police morality
department. Increased police attention to juvenile crime helped to
create the perception of a “boy problem.” The Toronto
Police were active during the late 19th century in hunting out the
newsboys and dangerous bad boys who refused to attend school. In
early November of 1896 the police incarcerated 30 newsboys because,
in the words of a Saturday

writer named “Mack,” they “had abused the means of
education which the authorities, in their wisdom, ha[d] provided for
them.” Questioning the wisdom of such coercive police tactics,
Mack asked: “who will venture to say that the boys have been
reformed by the punishment they have received?” The journalist
agreed with Howland and Kelso that incarcerating newsboys in local
gaols would have little reformative value To these boys, being held
in jail would have been quite a lark. The boys, Mack reasoned, “had
grown up wild and [would] readily adjust themselves to such a hard
and fast system.” Like Howland and J.J. Kelso, writers like Mack
worried about this unique class that required special attention, had
keen observation, and possessed an extensive knowledge of the social
world, but lacked formal education. These dangerous working-class
boys posed a threat to the established social order that needed to be
checked. “Society should uplift” newsboys, “Mack”
reasoned, if for no other reason than “in self defense.”
Evidently, threats to the gentry and established class hierarchy were
met with stiff opposition. In response, elites assembled and
disseminated strategies of control that subjected dangerous youth to
such “uplifting” (read capricious and demeaning) penalties
as confinement in adult prisons, deportation, and sterilization.

Perhaps Kelso and Howland were
less concerned with boys selling newspapers and smoking, and more
preoccupied with the potential problem city streets presented for
children and the risk street children posed to the respectable mode
of life. They understood selling newspapers to be an initial foray
into a life that could eventually spiral into habitual criminality.
As Howland testified before the Royal Commission on the Relations of
Labour and Capital: “there are hundreds of things in street life
that attract children.” Associations encountered on the streets
were considered criminogenic for young boys. David Archibald, staff
inspector of the Morality Department of the Toronto Police Force,
argued boys’ criminal propensities were developed through “the
associations that they form in the streets … They learn gambling,
tossing coppers and they get into all sorts of vice.”

only did children learn the intricacies of deviant conduct from peer
associations, but the street economy also permitted them access to
the theatre. Rapidly expanding commercial amusements in early
20th-century cities were magnets for boys. For ten cents they could
view a drama – albeit from the cheapest seats. The type of drama boys
chose to view worried Kelso and others concerned with regulating the
excesses of dangerous youth. To their dismay, boys wanted to attend
only the lowest theatre, which troublingly happened to be Irish,
working-class, and lewd. But perhaps the greatest problem associated
with this crass entertainment was the potential effect it had on
young minds. J. Edward Starr, who in 1912 be came the first
Commissioner of Toronto’s Juvenile Court, feared the number of movies
that depicted, in his words, “leering villains, gun play and
crime, not to say revenge and wanton love,” giving
impressionable young minds a false and unreal view of life. Kelso was
concerned that boys would not only imitate the villain’s character,
but would, once hooked on the excitement of such drama, use illegal
means to gain admission. Low theatres, Kelso reasoned, had a “baneful
influence on growing boys.” Boys who congregated around the
theatre were known to use profane language and purposefully annoy
pedestrians. Starr considered the city space adjoining theatre
entrances “to be the breeding places of disorderlies.”

Friendships developed on city
streets also allowed boys to find excitement and financial gain. In
addition to newspaper boys, Toronto’s moral crusaders were concerned
about gangs of “young hoods” who roamed the streets with
seemingly no purpose other than to cause general mayhem. According to
former Mayor Howland in testimony before the Royal Commission on
Labour and Capital: “They were systematically organized as a
general thing, the head of the gang being a boy who was convicted
once or twice before the Police Court. They were systematic gangs,
organized for all kinds of mischief, and in a great many cases
indulged in petty steal ing.” Howland thought gang relationships
were a significant contributor to Toronto’s problem of social
disorder and considered the influence of deviant friends to be among
the primary causes of juvenile deviance.”

– Bryan Hogeveen, “"The Evils with Which We Are Called to Grapple": Élite Reformers, Eugenicists, Environmental Psychologists, and the Construction of Toronto’s Working-Class Boy Problem, 1860-1930.” Labour / Le Travail, Vol. 55 (Spring, 2005), pp. 51-54

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In the 1860s founders of
institutions and programs for boys’ control, like the PAA, began to
tackle the problem of (predominantly) dangerous working-class male
youth disrespecting adults, not attending school, associating with
deviant peers, and, in their idleness, offending privileged standards
of morality. Deviant boys set themselves apart from their
middle-class counterparts through their actions, family context,
location in the city, and by the companions they kept. Even their
bodies were deemed deviant. Doctor P. Spohn, a physician at the
Penetanguishene Reformatory, testified before the Commissioners
Appointed to Enquire into the Prison and Reformatory System of
Ontario in 1891 how wayward boys were “different in physique.”
He added, “boys of the criminal classes were not so well
developed as a rule”; they were “often quite scrofulous.”

Elite reformers during the
late 19th century were convinced truancy was the precursor to
juvenile deviance. A. Ainger, a teacher in the city of Toronto,
argued that truancy was a “first step in the downward career of
those who, at length constituted the criminal class.” To combat
bad boys’ predilection for shirking their educational duties the Free
School System was created. The problem, however, was that those boys
most in need of education and preventative intervention were the
least likely to hear the lessons imparted by school teachers. One
magistrate who was frustrated by the increasing numbers of truant
boys appearing before him lamented to a mid 19th century Grand Jury
that, “the classes most in want of instruction, and the most
dangerous to society, are always those on whose ear the invitation to
come and be taught falls unheeded.” In this respect, elites
considered a lack of commitment to education destructive with
significance that went beyond the mere act of truancy. Truancy was a
precursor to criminality and, as a result, was threatening to the
well being of “society,” defined as a property-right of the
middle and upper classes.

While many of Toronto’s elite
were proud of their accomplishment of establishing Common Schools for
youth, they were gravely concerned about the number of boys who
refused to attend, and, as a result were deprived of the lessons of
respectability. According to Alexander Topp, these boys were,
“growing up in ignorance, familiar with vice in its most
degrading forms, trained to crime, and gradually, year by year,
filling [the] gaols and reformatories.” To ameliorate the
“ignorant” conditions of Toronto’s dangerous working-class
boys, Magistrate Hagarty was convinced that education should be
forced upon those who refused to attend. He argued that there was no
more important topic than “the possibility of ex tending the
healthy influence of education to the class of children by whom our
streets are infested and our jails burdened.”

schools, such as the Victoria Industrial School located in Mimico,
Ontario (a short distance west of Toronto), were promoted by elites
as the panacea to Toronto’s truant boy problem. The class and
religious backgrounds of industrial school promoters betray the
underlying rationale for these institutions. For exam ple, W.H.
Howland, the group’s most vocal supporter, was the eldest son of a
wealthy Toronto banker (Sir William Pearch Howland). Other Industrial
School backers came from similarly privileged backgrounds: William
Proudfoot was professor of law and vice-chancellor at the University
of Toronto and Goldwin Smith was publisher of the Toronto-based Week.
Clearly, institutions like the Victoria Industrial School were at the
heart of elite efforts to control dangerous youth and, in the
process, solidify privileged class position.

Many working-class boys
preferred the freedom of the streets to the restraints of the
schoolroom. In addition to providing opportunities for illicit
conduct, street life was a site to demonstrate, learn, and assert
their masculinity. Ainger argued that all bad boys wanted to
demonstrate manly competency among their friends. In his words, “the
boy desires to show his prowess; on the streets he can do it in a way
natural and spontaneous.” Classrooms, however, provided few such
opportunities. In school, boys gained credit from teachers or fellow
pupils only as they grasped curriculum material. Establishing their
masculinity in school was difficult for the truant since excelling
required qualities many did not possess. According to Ainger, truants
dwelled on jokes, companionship, excitement, and not the steadiness,
self-repression, and plodding industry required of successful
students. Of course, Ainger continued, the truant failed in school
and continued to fail. The restrained and obedient masculinity
demanded by middle-class teachers differed in form and function from
traits held in high regard by street companions.

Masculinity is stratified
along a number of structural lines including class. Although some
sensibilities regarding appropriate manliness were shared, they were,
for the most part, class bound. Working-class boys who eschewed the
class room in favour of the street flouted middle and upper-class
masculine norms of educational attainment. Instead of learning
numbers and skills to apply to a future occupation, many truants
established their streetwise masculinity in association with
like-situated boys. Male youth often took tests of toughness and
prowess in deviant conduct on the street more seriously than math
examinations. The injurious influence of negligent parents was
considered by commentators on truancy to be the fundamental reason
boys did not attend school. Kelso, for example, was certain home
circumstances held the secret as to why so many young children went
astray. In 1895, Reverend S. Card, protestant Chaplain of the Ontario
Reformatory for Boys at Penetanguishene, reported the results of a
study he conducted on the character and disposition of deviant boys.
After visiting inmates’ homes, having conversations about their
parents, and communicating with their neighbours he concluded: “not
one of those boys had come from a home where parents were Christians
and the family discipline was what it ought to be.” They lacked
what Card thought was essential to the formation of manly habits of
industry and obedience central to respectable working-class

other individuals who worked among juvenile offenders were convinced
that poor parents were frequently negligent in their duty of raising
law abiding citizens because of their refusal to ensure sons’
attendance at school. In the minds of many elite reformers, hapless
children were the consequence of derelict working-class parents.
According to a letter sent from University of Toronto Professor
Wilson to the editors of the Journal
of Education
parents of vagrant children could not be counted on to send their
children to school. Wilson was certain that compulsory education
legislation was not sufficient to, in his words, “meet the case
of the hungry, ragged children of the poor and often vicious
parents… [who could] be turned to account, to hawk, to beg, and
perchance to steal.” J.J. Kelso was also dismayed by the fact
that boys would be thrust into the world of work as newsboys and to
beg on the street in an effort to earn money for the negligent
working-class family. When building trades were suspended during the
winter months a great number of men were suddenly unemployed. To keep
the family fed, Kelso claimed, “and the parents in drink, many
children, girls as well as boys, were sent on the street to sell
newspapers and peddle laces and pencils and other trifles – a form of
begging in disguise.”

Begging on the streets or
selling newspapers became a fundamental part of some boys’ lives.
Kelso suggested that sending boys to the street to earn money for the
family at the expense of their attendance at school was an example of
the evil influence of wicked parents. From his considerable
experience with deviant boys, an Assize Court Judge argued that,
“parental authority is the greatest evil to which these poor
children are exposed.” He thought many boys were “dispatched
upon their daily errand of crime to bring home to worthless parents,
to be dissipated in drunkenness what they may lay their little
pilfering hands upon.” The judge was convinced that many male
youth of the dangerous classes attempted to extract charity from the
wealthier citizens of Toronto through tales of orphanage or some
imaginary calamity that suddenly befell them. For boys involved in
such deviance, at least one commentator believed, “instruction
in fictions of misery is all that they receive at home.”
Immorality among these children, Kelso reasoned, was exceedingly

However, Kelso and Wilson
failed to recognize working-class families’ social and economic
reality. Many were recent immigrants who had difficulty providing for
their families and therefore were forced to depend on their sons as
additional breadwinners. In answer to his question, “who goes to
school?” Michael Katz found that indeed lower socio-economic
status was the greatest predictor of who would not be found in the
school yard. Katz found the one exception to this rule was
working-class parents with very young children. l Poor families found
prioritizing their sons’ voluntary attendance at school difficult
when juxtaposed with their earning potential. But to suggest that the
main reason boys eschewed school was because their parents required
their labour power is to deny the spirit of youth for adventure and
deviance. That bad boys did not like their teacher (or the teacher
did not like them), or were frustrated by the work, or that distance
to the school was too great, or that they considered it a waste of
time since education was not a prerequisite for employment, are
certainly other plausible reasons for non attendance. These reasons
were lost on elite reformers.

with truancy, Toronto’s opinion leaders loathed disrespect and
disregard for authority in deviant youth. Deviant boys, one editor
commented, had “no respect for adults as such. They feigned
none.” When a group of boys were playing ball near your windows,
the editor lamented, and “you, not wishing to spoil their sport,
say to them: ‘Boys watch those windows,’ one of the boys was sure to
retort, ‘how long do you want me to look at them?” Or, as the
editorial continued, if a boy on his way to school was rebuked by an
adult for abusing his younger brother, he would almost certainly turn
and say: “’Aw, what’s chewin’ you – mind your own business!”
G.W. Allan while speaking at the First Annual Conference on Child
Saving bemoaned the fact that one of the most distinguishing features
of er rant youth was their almost complete lack of respect. He, along
with Kelso, was certain that: “when you find a boy who is
utterly devoid of any respect for those who are in authority over
him, or who are older than himself, you may be sure it will not be
very long before he is into trouble.”

– Bryan Hogeveen, “"The Evils with Which We Are Called to Grapple": Élite Reformers, Eugenicists, Environmental Psychologists, and the Construction of Toronto’s Working-Class Boy Problem, 1860-1930.” Labour / Le Travail, Vol. 55 (Spring, 2005), pp. 46-51

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During the 19th century
citizens of Ontario encountered demographic, social, and economic
transformations that threatened social cohesion and eroded
retributive governance. A consistent theme in literature concerned
with the growth of social welfare is how the development of cities, a
result of urbanization, industrialization, and immigration from
Western Europe during the 19th century, contributed to the constant
wearing away of what Joey Noble calls “petty commodity
capitalism.” To many reformers, the city symbolically embodied
the worst features of modern industrial life and was certainly no
place for innocent children. Its slums were the source of
dangerousness that corrupted, tarnished, and otherwise debased the
young. By contrast, the country was “healthful and therefore
good for the boys both morally and physically.”

by the promise of abundant jobs and preferable social conditions,
immigrants from Ireland and Western Europe began populating Canadian
cities. How ever, the growth of cities and developments in social
welfare were not uniform across Ontario. Toronto, for example, grew
from a population of 56,092 in 1881
to 208,040 in 1901. Other cities, such as Montreal and Hamilton, were
experiencing similar growth, but not to the same extent as Toronto.
By 1910 the growth of light industry and the burgeoning manufacturing
sector had made Toronto Canada’s premier economic city.

As Canadian urbanization
transformed the landscape of class relations between 1860 and 1930,
the population of the urban poor expanded significantly. While the
growth of the economy may have meant jobs for the respectable working
classes, it also insured that the most socially and economically
disadvantaged attracted intense scrutiny from an increasingly
insecure gentry. Their lack of a regular connection to the labour
market helped to constitute the poor as a dangerous class, which
reinforced their isolation and justified intrusive forms of
governance. Historians have drawn critical attention to how, during
the 1890s, dangerous and fringe populations (single women,
prostitutes, and homosexual men) were at the centre of an urban
reform project designed to create healthier, cleaner, and safer
streets. Toronto’s elite reformers and social commentators were
convinced that the debauchery of dangerous working-class parents
would certainly be transferred to their children. They were eager to
find intervention strategies that would minimize the likelihood of
this “hereditary” debasement.

apparent upsurge in numbers of delinquent, truant, and vagrant
children roaming the streets was frequently noted in Royal Commission
reports and news papers. Alexander Topp, a Presbyterian minister at
Toronto’s Knox Church, argued in 1868 that “one of the most
important subjects affecting the social and moral well being of our
country [was] the condition of the neglected, unfortunate young
boys.” Through their conduct and derelict family relations these
boys of the dangerous class threatened the existing class order and
were a drain on the resources of
the emerging country. Topp’s fears were not entirely groundless, as a
significant percentage of all reported offences between 1882 and 1892
were committed by juvenile offenders. During this ten-year span, 31.6
per cent of all criminal convictions in the province were for youth
(boys and girls) under the age of 21. The majority of such offences,
however, were non-violent, property related, and often violations of
moral codes. Significantly, a high proportion of offenders were boys
– well over 90 per cent of juveniles convicted of indictable
offences. The dramatic rise in youth crime that was evident in the
late 19th century can be attributed to a combination of factors
including an emerging police morality department, growing attention
to policing morals offences among Toronto’s working class, and
greater middle-class insecurities. The increase in both visibility
and incidence of deviance among boys provided elite reformers with
evidence that (non) labouring youth were out-of-control and in
immediate need of regulation. Solutions designed to manage this
dangerousness resulted in a heightened campaign of governance that
meant increasing numbers of working-class boys were subject to
sometimes arbitrary and degrading punishment.

did little to attenuate middle and upper-class fears. Many
magistrates were unwilling to commit children suspected of wayward
behaviours to the juvenile reformatory prison at Pentanguishene in
favour of sentencing and detaining them in local gaols; between 1860
and 1864 nearly 600 children were commit ted to the Toronto lock up.
Prison reformers objected, arguing that jailing young males with
seasoned and hardened offenders created more problems than it solved.
While detained awaiting trial they were indiscriminately mixed with
an array of of fenders representing varying experiences in criminal
or otherwise deviant enterprises. According to prison inspector
Andrew Dickson, incarceration provided boys with the opportunity to
speak with the “most profane language without a check, form
associations, lay plans for future crime, get more confirmed in idle
habits, gambling, smoking, and, in many cases drinking.” In
other words, conventional approaches to punishment only exacerbated
the boy problem, particularly because the number of dangerous
working-class boys in jail rose over the mid 19th century.

reform groups, such as the Prisoner’s Aid Association (PAA),
considered the environment of local jails to be the breeding grounds
for future criminals. The group argued in 1884 that prisons created
an environment where “a terribly dangerous class to society
[was] under our paternal system being actually developed.”
Cramming boys into cells alongside the lumpenproletariat did little
to fortify the elite classes’ societal position. In the long term,
since these boys would eventually be released, this practice
aggravated the problem and put the elite at greater risk. “Seize
an individual on his first descent into crime,” a newspaper
article proclaimed in 1887, and “clap him into gaol among
veteran scoundrels, cover him with vermin, bathe him in slush, hold
him until completion of his term, and then turn him helpless upon the
world, and all the chances are that he will become a professional
criminal.” If only young criminals could be dealt with
intelligently, the PAA stated in 1884, how “many restorations to
the right path might be achieved among those who have but little more
than stepped aside?” Like other reform minded groups, the PAA
viewed the mid 19th century system for managing way ward boys to be
“criminally defective” and the “most prolific
propagator of crime.”

Bryan Hogeveen,
“"The Evils with Which We Are Called to Grapple": Élite
Reformers, Eugenicists, Environmental Psychologists, and the
Construction of Toronto’s Working-Class Boy Problem, 1860-1930.”
Labour / Le Travail,
Vol. 55 (Spring, 2005), pp.

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