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John C. Beattie family correspondence, 1862-1869 (majority within 1862-1866)

41 items

This collection consists of 41 letters between members of the Beattie family of Salem, New York, including 24 letters that John C. Beattie sent to his wife while working at Clinton Prison in Dannemora, New York, during the Civil War.

This collection consists of 41 letters between members of the Beattie family of Salem, New York, including 24 letters that John C. Beattie sent to his wife while working at Clinton Prison in Dannemora, New York, during the Civil War.

John Beattie's letters home pertain to his daily experiences at Clinton Prison, and he reported on prisoners and conditions within the institution. He reported news of his sons, both members of the Union Army, and occasionally commented on current events, such as his wish that John Wilkes Booth had been hanged or burned at the stake rather than shot (April 27, 1865). In a letter to his sister Martha, Robert Beattie mentioned his enlistment in the "Salem Company" and his preference for enlistment over the draft (August 3, 1862). The remaining correspondence is made up of letters by members of the extended Beattie family and the family's acquaintances.


John V. Lansing papers, 1842-1917 (majority within 1842-1880)

131 items (0.5 linear feet)

The John V. Lansing papers document the life of Lansing, particularly his medical education and work in New York State Asylums.

Although a small collection, the Lansing papers contain a varied array of materials: 38 pieces of correspondence between Lansing and various family members, journals of his trips to Europe and to South America, journals of his medical training, assorted poems and Valentine poems by Lansing, his sketchbook and several loose pencil sketches, the text of his graduation speech from Rutgers, a lecture on "thought and thinking" which he delivered in 1848, his estate inventory, a few receipts and business letters, miscellaneous correspondence between other family members, an autograph book and theme book which probably belonged to a niece, 11 unidentified photographs, part of a magazine article depicting the Lansing family homestead, and a few pieces of peripheral miscellany. (The sketch book, autograph book, and European diary have been removed to a separate pamphlet box.) Also included in an introductory folder are obituaries of Lansing, his article on frogs, and published proceedings of the Albany Medical Society which record his participation.

This collection is not as rich in research potential as one would hope, given the subject's varied travels and career changes as documented in the manuscripts. Most of the correspondence and journals are revealing of Lansing's personality, opinions, and philosophy rather than abundant with details on places, people, and activities. One comes to know the man intimately, but not to be able to place him very confidently in a social and professional context.

Probably the greatest value of the papers is in the information which can be gleaned from them on medical education and practice in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Lansing's medical school journals, especially the section covering his training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City (1853 June 27-December 17), are full of details on medical lectures, learning how to diagnose and treat various diseases and conditions, the performance of autopsies, surgical procedures (especially gynecological operations), and pharmacology. Given Lansing's analytical and opinionated nature, these depictions are often both informative and insightful as to the nature of medical science during this era. He writes on August 2, 1853: "I attended a part of Motts Clinique at the University and saw some noteworthy cases. He ordered a plaster over a sore breast and said when the patient had retired that was always his way when he didn't know what a thing was to cover it up with plaster and spoke of it as a rule to be adopted in life to cover up what we don't understand with plasters. I don't exactly like the principle." Lansing also includes in this journal segment a horrifying description of a woman's death of gangrene of the intestines after surgery for an ovarian tumor -- highly evocative of the primitive nature of surgery and infection prevention in this period.

The European and South American journals also contain some material on hospital conditions and medical training and practice, specifically in Paris, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. There is an interesting account of Lansing's unsuccessful treatment of a tuberculosis patient while ship's physician on the "Seaman," and of the man's subsequent death and burial at sea. The correspondence covering Lansing's years of practice as physician at two insane asylums and at Clinton State Prison are disappointing in their lack of detail on medical practice; only a few general descriptions and anecdotes on patients and incidents are provided. Published accounts of his participation in the Albany County Medical Society, however, are more informative, for they present case studies which illustrate typical diagnoses and treatments of various illnesses.

Interesting minor sidelights of the collection are descriptions of the manufacture of an artificial arm for Lansing's brother-in-law, and some technical details about a candle making process involving lard-oil which, through his studies in chemistry, he was helping a friend to develop. Lansing's poetry also constitutes a minor but entertaining resource, for it exemplifies the sentimental nature of social and literary expression in this era, as well as revealing the author's wit and style.


Richard P. Mallory sketchbook, 1855-1857

1 volume

The Richard P. Mallory sketchbook contains 80 pages of complete and incomplete sketches of various landscapes and buildings in Vermont and New York, drawn between 1855 and 1857.

The Richard P. Mallory sketchbook contains 80 pages of sketches of various landscapes and buildings in Vermont and New York, drawn between 1855 and 1857. Manuscript inscriptions on the inside cover indicate that the sketchbook belonged to R.P. Mallory and was rebound in 1888. A brief index is included in the front with the locations of many of the subjects in the sketches. The pages are inconsistently numbered, and not all pages contain drawings. Many of the drawings are incomplete. Captions and dates are included with most of the sketches, many containing the location of the subject in the drawing. These subjects are from various villages and cities in Vermont, including Burlington, Fairfield, Saint Albans, and Winooski. New York views include Dannemora, Keeseville, Malone, Ogdensburg, Plattsburg, Redford, and Rouses Point.

There are many detailed sketches of buildings: churches, schools, homes, hotels, banks, court houses, and train depots. There are also many landscape sketches, depicting farms, lakes, rivers, trees, mountains, and waterfalls. Of note are sketches of the Ausable River, including the Ausable Falls and Devil's Oven, on pages 74 to 87. Two ports are also depicted, Port Kent in Burlington and Port Jackson in New York.

Pages 30 to 44 are devoted to the Franklin sawmill in Plattsburgh, noted as the "largest mill in the state of New York." Included are views of the interior and exterior, and an introductory page with a history and details of the mill. Great attention is also given to the Clinton Prison and its related mining operations in Dannemora, New York, spanning pages 96 to 103. Of note are an overview of the prison facility and striking views of underground mining operations.

The style of the drawings throughout the sketchbook suggests the occasional use of an optical device such as a camera obscura.


Sing Sing Prison Board of Inspectors and of Inspector in Charge minutes, 1865-1874

497 pages (1 volume)

This volume is made up of three sets of entries: reports of the inspector in charge of Sing Sing Prison, minutes of the Board of Inspectors of State Prisons, and a continuation of reports of the inspector in charge of Sing Sing Prison. The Board of Inspectors concentrated on inspections, facilities, maintenance, personnel, order, discipline, finances, convict labor according to the contract system, the female prison, prisoner transfers (including to Auburn Prison's asylum for mentally ill convicts), and other matters. The minutes and reports are typically brief, but taken as a whole they offer detailed insight into the workings or proposed workings of the State prison from the perspective of this administrative body.
This volume is made up of three sets of entries, divided into two sections of numbered pages. They are:
  • Reports of the Inspector in Charge of Sing Sing Prison, April 28, 1865-April 1, 1872, section 1, pages 2-187.
  • Minutes of the Board of Inspectors of State Prisons, April 12, 1865-May 12, 1873, section 2, pages 1-180.
  • Reports of the Inspector in Charge of Sing Sing Prison, May 10, 1873-December 7, 1874, section 2, 181-311.

The Board of Inspectors and the individual inspectors concentrated on prison evaluations, facilities, maintenance, personnel, order, discipline, finances, convict labor according to the contract system, the female prison, prisoner transfers (including to Auburn Prison's asylum for mentally ill convicts), and other matters. The minutes and reports are typically brief, but taken as a whole they offer detailed insight into the workings or proposed workings of the State prison from the perspective of this administrative body.

The philosophies of incarceration expressed explicitly and implicitly in the volume are retribution/deterrence, self-funding and profit making, and rehabilitation through work and discipline. See bulleted notes below for pertinent examples. See also inspector Thomas Kilpatrick's final review of successes and goals at Sing Sing Prison during his tenure (December 7, 1874, sec. 2, pp. 307-311). In it, he discussed ways to make punishments effectual, decrease solitary confinements, improve prisoner equality, reduce prisoner extravagances, and increase discipline and good management so that the coming year would see increased profits. He noted that "good government and Financial success are Identical" and that prisons should be unpleasant, as they are not state boarding houses. A complaint made in September 1873 echoed the sentiment, stating that "our Prisons are fast becoming desirable Homes for the Indolent instead of a place of punishment and terror for evil doers" (September 2, 1873, sec. 2, p. 196). Of rehabilitation, Kilpatrick remarked, "The only true practical method to reclaim and reform a Convict is to have him learn that obedience to the Laws, rules, and regulations of the Prison is essential and required, he will leave the Prison better prepared to enter upon his duties to society by respecting Law and property, than he would by permitting him to enjoy his own self-will while in prison" (December 7, 1874, sec. 2, p. 310). A series of questions to the Board from the Committee of Prison Association includes content on prison goals and a remark that no prisoner should leave the prison unable to read (January 9, 1874, sec. 2, 228-233).

Throughout these records, the inspectors documented increases and decreases in prison populations and total proposed annual expenditures, noted separately for male and female prisons. They also specified assignments of inspectors to the Clinton, Auburn, and Sing Sing prisons (section 2, passim). The inspectors compared books and vouchers with storekeepers' accounts, documented board meetings at any of the three State prisons, and dealt with scores of visitors. They fielded hundreds of tours, "to the annoyance of the officers" (August 25, 1865, sec. 1, p. 16), and attended to annual visits from the Governor and Deputy Governor.

The regular reports and entries reflect several reoccurring themes, including facilities and personnel; maintenance of order and discipline, and other prisoner matters; convict contract labor; the female prison; and mental health transfers.

Facilities and Personnel

The Inspector in Charge of Sing Sing Prison reported on visits to individual prisoners' cells, the evaluation of buildings, the state of discipline, and upkeep or repair of various locations on site. Tours of inspection typically included the hospital, storehouse, guardhouse, kitchen, office space, bathhouse, mess hall, washhouse, agent's house, blacksmith shop, labor shops, stables, yards, hog house, soap house, pasture grounds, and docks. Inspections included an assessment of the needs of these departments. In the case of the kitchen, for example, they recorded the need for more storage for vegetables, refrigeration, ration evaluations, overabundance of food, etc. They mentioned the subject of garbage disposal.

Various security and other improvements were made over the course of the volume. They implemented revisions to ventilation and lighting, constructed a new hospital spring, and built a fence around the hog house (to be less offensive to the public, April 29, 1865, sec. 1, pp. 2-5), for example. Although the prison had no wall around it until 1876, this volume documents the construction of fences--notably between the grounds and the rail line (April 17, 1866, sec. 2, p. 21; May 4, 1867, sec. 2, p. 42; November 19, 1868, sec. 2, p. 99). On October 11, 1869, the prison purchased "watchmen's detectors" (sec. 2, p. 128).

Natural and negligent accidents occurred. Flooding from the breakage of a dam in a storm required cleanup and repair from June 26 to August 26, 1867 (sec. 1, pp. 81-82, 88). On April 11, 1872, the inspector reported that "old and weak" wooden Galleries were in significant disrepair and needed to be replaced with iron to prevent fire hazards. The State Legislature refused to appropriate funds (April 12, 1872, sec. 2, p. 154). The following year, the Galleries collapsed and killed one convict, injured several more, and injured one keeper (May 22, 1873, sec. 2, pp. 182-183). They rebuilt the structure, as reported on February 10, 1874 (sec. 2, p. 239).

The inspectors' reports reflect individual personnel changes, suspensions, dismissals, reinstatements, retirements, and new hires. The positions included guards, keepers, principal keepers, agents/wardens, assistant matrons, matrons, teachers, clergymen, and others. No lists of the complete staff exist in the volume. In three cases, the records indicate the hire of Civil War veterans (April 17, 1866, sec. 1, p. 39; May 22, 1866, sec. 1, p. 44; and August 13, 1866, sec. 1, p. 50).

Officers and keepers might be suspended or dismissed for various prison rule violations. These included reading while on duty, sleeping while on duty, dereliction of duty, language unbecoming of a guard, speaking poorly of other officers rather than working together, intemperance, trading with prisoners, receiving money from convicts, assisting in prison escapes, theft, not having sufficient knowledge to conduct their jobs, and other issues. In one case a prison keeper was suspended for stealing a "fancy box" made by convicts (May 30, 1865, sec. 1, p. 6). In another case, the shoe shop supervisor was suspended for stashing whiskey, Port, Champagne, eggs, tea, coffee, butter, pipes, and sugar (December 30, 1867, sec. 1, p. 114).

Other miscellaneous personnel issues arose. The Board deliberated on whether or not minor officers or guards should be required to wear uniforms; dissent argued that much of the staff could not afford the expense (July 21, 1873, sec. 2, p. 187).

Maintenance of Order and Discipline, and Other Prisoner Matters

Prisoners needed special privileges to engage in activities like writing letters, drawing money on deposit, receiving visits by relatives, etc. The minutes include entries specifying the nature of a privilege and the name of the convict receiving the permission. Male convicts repeatedly drew on their money deposited at the prison to send to mothers, wives and sisters, brothers (e.g. June 15, 1865, sec. 1, p. 8; June 17, 1865, sec. 1, p. 9), purchase books (such as a German dictionary, April 17, 1866, sec. 1, p. 39), and acquire additional food for health reasons (August 4, 1865, sec. 1, p. 13). One prisoner required special permission to use his money to pay for wooden leg repairs (June 16, 1865, sec. 1, pp. 9; November 7, 1867, sec. 1, p. 99), and another, George Smith, received permission to grow his whiskers after the first of June (April 29, 1865, sec. 1, p. 4).

The inspectors assessed and acted on various health and medical issues in the prison, particularly when outbreaks of illness occurred, such as an August 11, 1866, spreading of a bowel sickness (sec. 1, p. 48). In two cases, disinfection of the prison was performed (June 24, 1868, sec. 2, p. 71; April 5, 1869, sec. 2, pp. 123-124). Prisoners were required to be vaccinated, costing the State $200 (April 11, 1872, sec. 2, p. 155).

Inspectors occasionally made notes on prison clergy (Catholic and Congregational) and educators, and they attended chapel services at times. One inspector remarked that the convicts' singing could stand for improvement (January 26, 1866, sec. 1, p. 29). The teachers and clergy requested supplies for their work. On April 10, 1867 (sec. 1, p. 75), the chaplain ordered six dozen each of slates and spelling books. They purchased an organ for the chapel on January 1, 1868 (sec. 2, p. 57). In a show of public support for improving the character of officers and government of the prison (and, as they remarked, increasing intelligent, thinking visitors), the prison received an appropriation for the prison library (August 4, 1873, sec. 2, p. 189). Convicts' own books required approval from the chaplain (July 10, 1869, sec. 2, p. 127). Evidence of disorder in the chapel was also noted, as when the inspectors noticed convicts chewing tobacco during services (December 13, 1873, sec. 2, p. 225).

Order and discipline were chief concerns for the prison administration. Groups of male convicts were forbidden from congregating without the presence of a guard, pausing their work to gaze at visitors, possessing contraband, among many restrictions. Examples of the establishment of disciplinary rules, re-emphasis on existing rules, and punishment issues include:

  • No female prisoners are permitted to be walked through any workshop (April 16, 1869, sec. 2, p. 126).
  • Order to investigate punishments of a female and male prisoner (January 20, 1872, sec. 1, p. 184).
  • Discipline respecting the allowance of women to visit the male prison (February 6, 1872, sec. 1, p. 185).
  • No officer, keeper, or guard at the prisons will be permitted to keep horses, cattle, or other animals in the yards or grounds, or to feed them from food belonging to the State (January 2, 1873, sec. 2, p. 170).
  • No punishments are to be administered by a guard for any offenses unless the warden is consulted and the punishment approved. Twelve hours must pass between approval and the application of the punishment, giving the convict time to take in the gravity of the offense (January 3, 1873, sec. 2, p. 171).
  • On the Fourth of July/Independence Day 1873, convicts put on a vocal and instrumental performance, had an "excellent" dinner, had no restrictions until 6:00pm, and engaged in talking, laughing, singing, and speaking. The inspector remarked that the prisoners "were not unmindful of our National Birth day" (July 4, 1873, sec. 2, p. 185). However, by the end of the year, convicts were discovered practicing their art for a New Year's entertainment, which took them away from work. The inspector noted that such activities were detrimental to order and discipline, and had "no moral benefit" to the prisoners. He remarked that previous entertainments led to drunkenness, dissipation, and violation of rules (December 11, 1873, sec. 2, p. 224).
  • Loose discipline is destructive with respect to society's expectations of the prison, and it "also leads to greater necessity for punishment than a firm but humane policy" (August 12, 1873, sec. 2, p. 191).
  • No one is allowed to bring anything into the prison to sell or give to convicts, except tobacco in limited quantities (September 1873, sec. 2, p. 195).
  • Prisoners are not allowed to have civilian clothing as it increases the likelihood of escape; guards must monitor the movements of all prisoners. No prisoner may be given any keys (September 1873, sec. 2, p. 196).
  • No fishing is permitted on the prison docks during working hours (September 5, 1873, sec. 2, p. 198).
  • No cooking is permitted by inmates in any out house, shanty, or yard anywhere on the prison grounds, except in the prison kitchen, because it causes inequality among the prisoners (September 5, 1873, sec. 2, p. 199).
  • No convicts are allowed to roam around the grounds after prison hours, because "Great evil has heretofore prevailed and will again" if the actions continue (September 8, 1873, sec. 2, p. 201).
  • All huts and shanties that have arisen around the yards and quarries will be taken down because inmates meet in them and plot mischief (September 8, 1873, sec. 2, p. 201).
  • Visitors are not permitted in the prison without a ticket. A blue ticket indicates those entitled to visit for free, while a red ticket indicates a paid visitor. No officer may accept compensation from visitors for any favors (October 10, 1873, sec. 2, p. 207).
  • Only one convict is allowed in the water closet at a time (October 11, 1873, sec. 2, p. 208).
  • Wagons or sleighs must be observed by guards when loading and must be under watch when moving to or from prison grounds (November 11, 1873, sec. 2, p. 213.
  • Discussions of commutation are rare. On one occasion, the inspectors considered commutation because "it is self evident that crime is increasing at a fearful rate and the Capacity of our Prisons entirely inadequate to accommodate that increase" (December 10, 1873, sec. 2, p. 223; see also January 9, 1874, sec. 2, p. 229).
  • "The important trust of taking care of and provided for the moral & physical wants of unfortunate depraved and suffering humanity is too sacred to be confided to any who do not sympathize with their success and reform." All punishments are to be delivered "in kindness yet with firmness" (January 12, 1874, sec. 2, p. 235).
  • In one of the only instances of positive reinforcement stated in the records, the administration discussed implementing a coat sleeve mark to distinguish meritorious conduct (August 14, 1874, sec. 2, p. 274).
  • The keepers and guards on night duty will enforce quiet with punishment and the removal of the light in the offender's cell (September 2, 1874, sec. 2, p. 287).

Mount Pleasant Female Prison

The Board of Inspectors evaluated the Mount Pleasant Female Prison in much the same way as they assessed the male prison. Notes and reports on aspects of the female prison cover facilities upkeep and improvement, personnel issues, order and discipline, contract work, health, and other subjects. The inspectors reviewed processes related to children, female-specific rules (such as disallowing women from using tobacco), visitor arrangements, and lack of infrastructure to tend to mentally ill women (August 25, 1865, sec. 1, p. 16). One entry documents the punishment of female inmates for reporting unspecified misconduct by an officer (September 22, 1868, sec. 1, pp. 128-129).

Entries respecting children:
  • Problem with children of female convicts being brought to the prison; arrangements with Superintendents of the Poor; and movement of children to the almshouse (April 12, 1865, sec. 2, p. 4).
  • The only woman identified in the volume who received special permission to have her child with her in prison (June 26, 1867, sec. 1, p. 82).
  • All children brought to or born in the female prison are to be taken to the almshouse at the age of one year, as arranged by the warden and the Superintendent of the Poor, Westchester County. An alternative is to have a relative take the child (October 9, 1873, sec. 2, p. 206).
Various female prison entries:
  • Issues associated with the night matron of the female prison sleeping and leaving no one at attention (April 13, 1865, sec. 2, p. 3).
  • Women's wardrobe is to be directed by the principal matron (July 9 and 10, 1865, sec. 2, p. 8).
  • At Auburn Prison, allowance for unemployed female convicts is to be utilized by assistant matrons for their own benefit (July 12, 1865, sec. 2, p. 9).
  • Improvements to the key room in the Female Prison, (August 4, 1865, sec. 1, p. 13).
  • Mary Watterson, assistant matron of the female prison, is severely injured by inmates, "who as I understand, manifested more the disposition of fiends than human beings" (September 4, 1865, sec. 1, pp. 17-18).
  • Mr. Woodruff's contract with female prisoners expired and now many of them are unemployed; hope for another contract soon (November 22, 1865, sec. 1, p. 23; continued concerns, plus overcrowding, December 14, 1865, sec. 1, p. 25).
  • The female prison is not to be closed on foggy days (as the male prison is) and women will be required to work full days (January 30, 1866, sec. 1, p. 30).
  • Purchase of Mrs. Hubbard's cow for the female prison (December 7, 1866, sec. 1, p. 61).
  • Order to fill a well in the female prison yard, as the water is filthy because of its proximity to the sewer (March 4, 1867, sec. 1, p. 73).
  • Relocation of a bridge near the female prison because it was not easily viewed by guards (July 8, 1867, sec. 2, p. 47).
  • Purchase of new stair carpets for the female prison matron (March 1, 1868, sec. 2, p. 62).
  • Two women convicts punished for "reporting an Officer"; reaffirmation that no official notice will be taken of the testimony of a convict and that the principal matron may administer whatever punishment she sees suitable for "reporting any action or language of any officer" (September 22, 1868, sec. 1, pp. 128-129).
  • The matron of the female prison determines how much washing is requisite for the department. (January 6, 1869, sec. 2, p. 114).
  • Hire of Mary Wright as assistant matron (Feb. 10, 1870, sec. 1, p. 150; May 8, 1870, sec. 1, p. 156).
  • Suspension of Mrs. Smith by the principal matron, attributable to a misunderstanding and malicious stories; reinstated as assistant matron (May 7, 1870, sec. 1, p. 155).
  • One female convict has permission to see her imprisoned husband every three weeks; also, female prison rations and pay (July 7, 1870, sec. 2, p. 138).
  • Discussion of the need for a kitchen in the female hospital; suggests moving the nursery up a floor and using the space it formerly occupied (July 22, 1873, sec. 2, p. 188).
  • In the Clinton Prison, contractors may supply tobacco to male but not female convicts, "there being no necessity for its use by them it is forbidden." They may, however, be allowed snuff in reasonable quantities (October 16, 1873, sec. 2, p. 209).
  • Mrs. Hubbell and her daughter may deliver luxuries to the female prisoners in the prison hospital, "as they think will add to their comfort" (November 7, 1873, sec. 2, p. 211).
  • Warden to furnish knitting needles to female prisoners to knit stockings (January 9, 1874, sec. 2, p. 229).
  • Female prisoners dying in the hospital should receive a room free from noise and human traffic (May 6, 1874, sec. 2, p. 258).
  • Assistant matron Mrs. Chase fell down the stairs, has brain damage, and is likely to die; grief experienced by prisoners (October 4, 1874, sec. 2, p. 292).

Mental Illness

The content in these records pertinent to mental health takes the form of assessment of prisoners and transfer of convicts to the asylum at Auburn Prison. See, for example:

  • John Donnelly of the buckle shop was laboring under delusions, treated at the hospital, and is now apparently better (August 25, 1865, sec. 1, p. 16).
  • The State Lunatic Asylum will not accept mentally ill female convicts and they have no proper accommodations at Sing Sing: "there seems at present no satisfactory answer to the question 'What shall be done with the insane female convicts'" (August 25, 1865, sec. 1, p. 16).
  • One of the prisoners in "the Dark Cells" is "a fit subject for the Asylum" (March 7, 1866, sec. 1, p. 37).
  • • Transfers to Auburn Prison asylum; most entries provide names of the transfers (the following list is not proofed, but is believed to document all such entries in this volume):
    • Physician informs the inspector that a particular convict is unfit for prison discipline on account of being "insane" (November 12, 1866, sec. 1, p. 58).
    • Two patients (February 4, 1867, sec. 1, p. 70).
    • Two patients (May 20, 1867, sec. 1, p. 80).
    • Four patients (December 11, 1867, sec. 1, p. 108).
    • Four patients (June 24, 1868, sec. 2, p. 72).
    • One patient from the Clinton Prison to Auburn (June 24, 1868, sec. 2, p. 72).
    • Four patients (February 4, 1869, sec. 1, p. 134).
    • Two patients (March 6, 1869, sec. 1, pp. 136-137.
    • Five patients, including one Black man (May 27, 1869, sec. 1, p. 144).
    • One patient (December 13, 1869, sec. 2, p. 133).
    • One patient (August 3, 1870, sec. 1, pp. 158-159).
    • One patient (May 4, 1871, sec. 1, p. 170).
    • One patient (May 25, 1871, sec. 1, p. 172).
    • Two patients (July 12, 1871, sec. 1, p. 174).
    • Four patients, including one woman (January 4, 1872, sec. 1, p. 183-184).
    • Two men and two women; assessment of prisoners for mental health issues in male and female prisons (August 25-26, 1873, sec. 2, pp. 192-193).

Finances, the Contract System, and Profit

The managerial responsibilities of the Board of Inspectors included paying close attention to the financial aspects of the State Prisons. These Sing Sing records include documentation of expenditures, anticipated annual financial need, money received from the State, the value of stock held by the prison or from the State, requisitions, and management of prisoner contract labor. The minutes of the Board of Inspectors are at times dominated by advertising contract leases, considering proposals and applications by contractors, negotiating wages, maximizing the numbers of laboring inmates, handling contractors in arrears, balancing labor for the State versus labor for contractors, maintaining profitability, and discussing the value of keeping prisoners from being idle.

The State prison contract system included a wide variety of natural resource gathering, processing, and manufacturing operations. Among them were limestone, coal, and marble quarrying; limekiln operations; stonecutting, woodcutting, and printing; manufacturing of linen, clothing (and "convict cloth"), hats, tapestries, cabinets, saddles, harnesses, whips, shoes, boots, tools, skates, malleable iron, nails, cutlery, furniture, chain, cigars, brushes, marble dust, augurs, and brassware. On May 12, 1873, the inspectors made arrangements for the construction of buildings at the extreme south end of the grounds for the manufacture of sulfuric acid and terre alba (sec. 2, p. 180). Entries also pertain to the infrastructure needed for these contacts, such as acquiring machinery, kilns, forges, and workspaces.

During the financial panic of 1873 and the accompanying decrease in the prices of goods, the Board of Inspectors minutes show a flurry of efforts by the State and the contractors to decrease costs, increase inmate employment, and reduce the number of prison guards and keepers.

Some examples of entries that relate to efforts to minimize expenditures or illuminate contract labor activities, discussions, profitability, and economic considerations include:
  • Women laborers tended to make around 20-24c per day, while men largely made around 40-60c per day (see section 2 passim).
  • The State advertised contracts based on the number of able-bodied inmates (October 4, 1865, sec. 2, p. 11). An example advertisement is located on October 17, 1866 (sec. 2, p. 32).
  • While prisoner transfers occurred for mental health and overcrowding reasons, a good number of prisoners were moved between State prisons to manage the workforce needed for contract labor (for example, March 14, 1866, sec. 2, p. 19). In one case, Sing Sing had "more convicts than can profitably be employed," necessitating transfers (July 22, 1873, sec. 2, p. 188). The Board also discussed the transfer of prisoners based on types of work skills needed at different State prisons, except when a convict had family members who could not visit the other prisons (June 12, 1874, sec. 2, p. 263).
  • "The contractors all seem doing a prosperous business and it really seems to me that with the high price of labor out of the prison, they can well afford to pay more for the service of convicts" (November 12, 1866, sec. 1, p. 58).
  • Implementation of orders against the overwork of prisoners on contracts, and against promises of additional pay to convicts for extra work (March 4, 1867, sec. 1, p. 74).
  • The inspectors sought support from the State to improve iron-working facilities and be more productive for the State (by rolling scrap iron, processing coke, etc.). By November 1867, they had set up twelve forges with the anticipation of more (November 22, 1867, sec. 1, pp. 101-102).
  • In 1868, the Prison Committee of the House of Assembly discussed the State taking over the profitable quarrying operations and cutting out the intermediary contractor. They also discussed the abolition of the contract system in order to have the convicts work solely on behalf of the State (February 29, 1868, sec. 2, p. 60). Legislators passed a State law the same year, terminating the quarry contract. These records contain copied correspondence on the State purchase of machinery and tools, and the compensation of contractor Westchester Marble & Lime Company for $125,000 (June 24, 1868, sec. 2, pp. 73-87). The contract itself is copied in sec. 2, pp. 91-93. An example listing of State profits from quarry operations is found on September 22, 1868 (sec. 1, p. 128). However, in 1871, the legislature failed to appropriate funds for the operation of the lime and marble works, prompting a discussion about whether to close the works or again lease to a contractor (May 2, 1871, sec. 2, pp. 145-146). Ultimately, the State authorized the continuation of the work so long as it received 25c net for each barrel of lime and half the proceeds from the sale of marble dust, cut stone, and fluxation (May 30, 1871, sec. 2, pp. 146-147).
  • One short-lived contract was a printing operation by James B. Swain and Francis B. Fisher, employing 75 men. By the summer of 1868, the legislature forbade any future printing contracts (February 29, 1868-July 20, 1868, sec. 2, pp. 61, 68-69, 89-90).
  • The augur manufacturing contract lost money and changed hands from James Horner to Montauk Auger Co. (July 18, 1868, sec. 2, pp. 88-89). They closed up shop on November 19, 1868, while owing $14,528.43 to the State for convict labor, water, merchandise, and interest; the State negotiated to purchase all the equipment for the work (sec. 2, pp. 100-101).
  • Fire destroyed the buildings used by contractor C. H. Woodruff, but his contract expired, so they were uncertain as to whether or not to repair them (July 21, 1868, sec. 1, p. 123).
  • Contract of I. G. Johnson & Co. of the Malleable Iron Contract and W. H. Skidmore of the "Female Contract" (100 female convicts employed on linen clothing manufacturing) to obtain their own heating for winter work (November 18, 1868, sec. 2, pp. 96-97; see also the contract of W. H. Skidmore, November 19, sec. 2, pp. 97-98).
  • Punishment cells need to be constructed that have room for the convict to work, on the belief that this will answer discipline issues (July 9, 1869, sec. 1, p. 149).
  • Contract for female labor transferred to Townsend Young in making linen coats and items like it for summer wear, but not heavy woolen goods (April 8, 1871, sec. 2, p. 143).
  • Requirement to collect sums due from contractors for overwork. Discussion of prisoner work hours and idle time, concerned that convicts hurry and complete their work by noon; requirement established that prisoners work from bell to bell (October 11, 1871, sec. 2, pp. 148-149).
  • Addition of a shop room for boot and shoe contractor George L. Trask (December 10, 1872, sec. 2, pp. 166-167).
  • Auburn Prison's receipt of proposals for the laundry business and manufacture of summer clothing by female convicts (February 5, 1873, sec. 2, p. 175; February 15, 1873, sec. 2, p. 177).
  • Review of convict clothing to be conducted so that the State can save funds manufacturing as little clothing as possible (August 11, 1873, sec. 2, p. 190).
  • "Wholesome discipline should be maintained by moral suasion if possible, by such force when necessity requires it as may bring the delinquent to obedience, as speedily as possible, and according to their best judgement and time, provided such mode of punishment is not forbidden by law. An opinion prevails that all punishment under any circumstances is prohibited and consequently that want of discipline and insubordination prevails in the prisons, which opinions thus entertained are seriously affecting the letting of Contracts and consequently a great pecuniary loss to the State." All punishment must therefore be delivered only by the principal keeper, with the assent of the warden, and upon inquiry into the case (August 12, 1873, sec. 2, pp. 191-192).
  • "The Contractors being in want to men it becomes a necessity that all convicts able to work (and not currently on contracts) should be placed where they could earn something. All available men not thus employed in Kitchen Halls, Mess Room or Yards, or elsewhere should be set at work and their places filled as far as possible by Invalids or those who are too infirm to be placed upon or continued on Contracts. A very large number could be thus changed largely increasing the Income of the Prison, there are far too many unemployed" (September 4, 1873, sec. 2, p. 197).
  • Too much milk is being consumed by female prisoners, costing the State money. Reduce rations to former quantities. Reduce expenses in every department: "our Prisons are fast becoming desirable Homes for the Indolent instead of a place of punishment and terror for evil doers" (September 1873, sec. 2, p. 196).
  • "The men should work more hours than they are now doing, that the Hours of work should be lengthened not made shorter, it would be better for the Convicts..." (September 5, 1873, sec. 2, p. 197).
  • "A determined effort should be made to reduce the expenses of this Prison by increasing the number of convicts upon Contract work and by a reduction of expenses in the number of Keepers and Guards and otherwise" (September 5, 1873, sec. 2, p. 198).
  • A decrease in convict labor hours has caused "in some cases dissatisfaction to contractors" and is "injurious to the State." Lost work hours are also injurious to the convicts because they are locked up earlier than they would be otherwise and are unlocked later in the morning. More on reduction of expenses, with a mention of supplying wholesome food and comfortable clothing for the prisoners. Contractors should receive a fair day's labor (October 7, 1873, sec. 2, pp. 203-204).
  • The cost of gas from the Sing Sing Gas Company has increased; consideration whether the gas can be manufactured at the Prison (October 9, 1873, sec. 2, pp. 205-206).
  • Townsend Young, contractor for women's prison; "Task List" for the contract (November 11, 1873, sec. 2, p. 212).
  • A decline in prices renders the plane-making business unprofitable. A reduction in pay and number of prison laborers is necessary to prevent indebtedness (November 12, 1873, sec. 2, p. 216).
  • Correspondence and notes regarding the slump in prices and contractors' attempts to hire prisoners at half time for 10c to 20c per day (November 1873, sec. 2, pp. 216-222).
  • All legal costs desired or needed by laboring convicts are required to be paid by the prisoner (January 7, 1874, sec. 2, p. 227).
  • Decrease in bids for contracts, resulting from lack of discipline in workers and the "high price" of prison labor compared to other States (July 14, 1874, sec. 2, p. 269).
  • Complaints about number of able-bodied men in the hospital and unable to work (December 1874, sec. 2, p. 304).