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"When the School opened, and for some time after, the attendance was generally composed of organ-grinders and beggars, which vocations they indifferently acknowledged to follow, whenever asked, by analogous gestures. To redeem them from those ignoble vocations was, in my opinion, of paramount importance, and to that end I devoted part of my time in visiting their parents, to impress them with a sense of self-respect and human dignity, and talk them into the apprenticing into trades their offspring.

As, however, these boys brought home from fifty cents to a dollar per day, it was quite a difficult task to persuade them to give up this source of income for comparatively nominal wages. With guardians and relatives my efforts remained entirely fruitless. I then concluded that if we could show them practically that trades in the end would pay better, it would become easy to accomplish our purpose.

I concentrated, therefore, my exertions on three families, the most approachable, and succeeded. One consented to place a boy of fourteen in the Printing Department of the American Tract Society; another soon followed in the same line: the third, a boy of thirteen, entered a machine-shop. All three did very well, and at the end of two years they were earning five and six dollars per week. Their success caused a moral revolution, and had I been able to place all, not one would at this day be blacking boots, which many do for want of better employment.

It is a fact that speaks very highly of these Italians, that in every instance, whenever one has been employed, Italians are preferred. I have seen certificates given by manufacturers to some of them, speaking enthusiastically of their honesty, industry, and faithfulness. There are also instances of extraordinary interest taken by employers in their behalf, and in no case has any ever been discharged for any other reason than for want of work. A large number of girls also find occupation in artificial flowers and confectionery. All now look with scorn upon their former vocations, and the term 'pianist' is ironically applied to newly, landed organ-grinders. Now it is a fact that can stand the strictest scrutiny, that all those who follow decent vocations or attend day-schools, public or otherwise, either are or have been our regular attendants for years and that all grinders, beggars, and vagrants, in general, are not and have not, attended at all, or at most a few weeks, attracted only by the hope of getting shoes or clothes.

"Without mentioning the many present pupils who are engaged in honorable pursuits, I can readily name about fifty old attendants who have left school, now employed in this or other States as printers, confectioners, jewelers, shoemakers, machinists, carpenters, waiters, carvers, and farm-hands. To these must be added two who keep and own a neat confectionery and ice-cream saloon in Grand Street; a shoemaker in business for himself; another, one of the first three above-mentioned, a foreman in the very machine-shop in which he served as an apprentice; one a patented machinist in a steam chocolate manufactory; and, lastly, one who for the last three years has been foreman in a wholesale confectionery.

I omit to mention those who have gone back to Italy and are doing well. As a rule, they all remember with gratitude their friends, to whose efforts and liberality they acknowledge they owe their present position. From every State in which they settle we receive now and then encouraging news from some boy; and not long ago we heard, for the second time, from a boy in Italy, who, after having mentioned that he was studying Latin, etc., gives vent to his feelings by conveying his most hearty thanks to all the teachers, mentioning them one by one—to Mr. Brace, to Mr. Macy, and, not remembering the name of our good friend, John C. Havemeyer, Esq., he adds, "also to that kind gentleman who has an office at No. 175 Pearl Street." His letter is very touching, and reveals noble feeling and mind.

"Nor are parents less grateful and ready to acknowledge the good of American benevolence. I was conversing one evening with a widow woman, while her boy was writing to her father in Italy, and called her attention to the advantage her son had derived from our School, adding that I still remembered how indifferently she received at first my advices. She felt a little mortified and replied: 'Caro Maestro (Dear Teacher), having never received any good from anybody, but plenty of harm, we could not believe that all at once we had become worthy of so much kindness. We used to have hard treatment at the hand of everybody, had no friends; even our countrymen in better circumstances despised us, and, to tell you the truth, we had made up our mind that we would find charity only in the other world.'


OPENING OF THE SCHOOL - Charles Loring Brace, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work Among Them, 1872