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About this collection

From the inaugural issue of the Thompson Island Beacon, Vol. I, No. 1, May 1897:


In 1832 John Tappan, John D. Williams, Samuel T. Armstrong and others organized the Boston Farm School Society which one year later was incorporated and purchased Thompson's Island, in Boston Harbor, opening the doors of its large, new and hospitable looking building for "the education of boys belonging to the city of Boston, who, from extraordinary exposure to moral evil, require peculiar provision for the forming of their character, and for promoting and securing the usefulness and happiness of their lives; and who have not yet fallen into those crimes which require the interposition of the law to punish or restrain them.

Two years later [The Boston Asylum for Indigent Boys (inc. 1814) and The Boston Farm School] united their interests which were practically the same and by an act of the legislature became the Boston Asylum and Farm School for Indigent Boys. Such in brief is the history of the home popularly known as the Farm School, which for more than sixty years has owned and been located on Thompson's Island in Boston Harbor.

Boys who have committed crime or are what may be termed bad boys are not received within its doors. It is in no sense a reform school, but rather a training school for the one hundred boys who are generally to be found under its care and who are only admitted after the mcst thorough inspection as to moral character and physical condition. They are usually orphans, or the sons of widows who from force of circumstances are unable to provide a home for their children, or to give them proper attention and training. The course of study completes the grammar school grade. The manual training course includes mechanical drawing, carpentry, wood turning and wood carving; and all in turn are employed upon the farm and perform some part in the household duties, including cooking, baking, making and mending of clothing, washing etc.

 

-Charles H. Bradley, Headmaster (1897)

 

Thus, a residential school for boys was located on Thompson's Island from 1833 until 1975. In 1907 the name of the school was changed to the "Farm and Trades School" and in 1955 to "Thompson's Academy", a college preparatory school for urban boys that closed in 1975.

Since 1988, "the island’s Board of Trustees has partnered with Outward Bound to operate the island, creating Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. The island continues its mission to serve underprivileged Boston youth with programs that instill teamwork, self-confidence and compassion, and that encourage learning-by-doing." (http://thompsonisland.org/about/history/

This digital exhibit includes a sampling of some of the photographs and visual material from the UMass Boston Thompson's Island archival collections, which contain thousands of photographs, publications, school records and documents spanning 175 years.

Browse the digital sampling here.

 
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