The United States has a long and celebrated history of social services to address the specific needs of the communities in particular periods in history. The earliest forms of social services was believed to have been during the Civil War. The Ladies’ Aid Society facilitated the free production and distribution of bandages, clothing and towels. Other services extended during the Colonial period were in the forms of firefighting, food distribution, construction of houses, public amenities and free education (Trattner, 1974). In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony required an elementary school for every town with fifty families.
By 1765, the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia was the first institution in the United States built exclusively for the care of the sick. The hospital was funded by volunteers (Special Collections, n. d. ). Firefighting In 1711, the Mutual Fire Societies was established. This was a volunteer firefighting organization in Philadelphia. This organization was founded by concerned citizens of Boston after the city succumbed to a major fire in the early 18th century which ravished the homes of one hundred ten families (Ditzel, 1976). The Mutual Fire Societies developed into social and
protective associations. It set the pattern for the establishment of other volunteer firefighting groups. The Mutual Fire Societies became the backbone of modern firefighting in America (Smith, 1978). 1736 was the year when Benjamin Franklin established the first firefighting service and the first fire department in Philadelphia. This is considered as the first recorded organized social service the United States (Collins, 1982). Benjamin Franklin’s Union Fire Company initially had thirty volunteers and a man by the name of Isaac Paschall was the first
full-fledged volunteer. Due to the constant occurrences of fires in Boston and Philadelphia, the demand and popularity of the Union Fire Company increased significantly since its establishment. Soon after, more fire volunteers were needed to address the firefighting needs of the cities. The continuous demand for firefighting services led to the establishment of other companies, such as the The Fellowship, Hand in Hand, Heart in Hand, and Friendship companies. These companies swiftly gained popularity among the influential people of Boston and Philadelphia.
Many professionals and wealthy merchants volunteered their Services to these companies. Famous personalities such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, John Jay, John Barry, James Buchanan, and Millard Filmore served as volunteer firefighters in their own companies (Smith, 1978). Assistance for Merchant Seamen In the field of health care, the first group to benefit from the organized delivery of health care services were merchant seamen. 1798 was the year which marked the passage of
an act for the care of sick and disabled seamen. This eventually established the federal network of hospitals and other health care facilities specifically for the care of merchant seamen. The act of 1798 became the forerunner of the modern United States Public Health Service (US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2007). YMCA The rise in philanthropy was believed to have been a reaction against the hardships experienced by colonial Americans during the British occupancy. In 1844, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was established in London by George Williams.
Williams was in the drapery business. He and others in the drapery business started the YMCA as a substitute to bible studies and prayer life. This was also in response to the deplorable living and work conditions in the big cities as a result of the Industrial Revolution. During this time, young men from the rural regions in England were lured to London to seek jobs in the boom of railroads, construction, trade and industry. They were forced to work at least 10 hours a day, six days a week. They were away from their friends and families and lived in
crowded conditions at their places of work. Street life was far from pleasant. Pick pockets, open sewers, beggars, drunks, prostitutes dominated life outside the work places. In 1851, the YMCA has reached America. In 1853, Anthony Bowen, a freed slave, established the first branch of YMCA for black Americans in Washington, D. C. (YMCA, n. d. ). In 1857, the YMCA planted its roots to its first educational institution – the University of Michigan. Together with the YMCA, an orphanage system and William Booth’s Salvation Army was also established (Williams). Agriculture, Food and Nutrition
In 1862, a Chemist by the name of Charles M. Wetheril was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to serve in the new Department of Agriculture. Mr. Wetheril’s department was the beginning of the Bureau of Chemistry, later on known as the Food and Drug Administration. In 1906, the Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed by Congress. This law enabled the government to monitor the safety of medicines and the purity of foods. This mandate was eventually given to the Food and Drug Administration. 1938 marked the year of the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (US Dept.
of Health and Human Services, 2007). Public Health 1871 was the year when the first Supervising Surgeon (later on known as the Surgeon General) for the Marine Hospital Service. In 1878, the National Quarantine Act was passed which institutionalized the inspection of goods and produce from overseas. The quarantine functions of the states were thus transferred to the Federal Marine Hospital Service. Within a decade, the federal government constructed a one-room laboratory on Staten Island, New York that had the primary objective of disease research. This laboratory in Staten Island was
the beginnings of the National Institutes of Health. In 1891, with the passing of legislation for immigration, the Marine Hospital Service was assigned with the responsibility of conducting medical examinations to arriving immigrants. The epidemics that plagued America throughout the 18th century originally came from Europe through its immigrants that landed on American ports. The institutionalization of medical exams for arriving immigrants was then a significant move to secure the health of the general population by efforts in securing its borders from disease.
By 1902, the Marine Hospital Service was converted into the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service. The name was shortened to Public Health Service in 1912, to reflect its mandate to provide a wider range of health services, beyond the merchant marines. In 1946, the Communicable Disease Center was founded. This organization was the forerunner of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By April 11, 1953, under the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower, the Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education and Welfare was created (US Dept.
of Health and Human Services, 2007). American Red Cross The Ladies Aid Societies continued its works from 1861-1865. In 1881, the American Red Cross was established by Clara Barton. The first Red Cross was founded by Henri Dunant in Geneva, Switzerland in 1865. Dunant was a student evangelist (Williams). Barton wanted to localize the services offered by Dunant in Geneva. She was known as the savior of soldiers wounded in battle during the Civil War. She was given the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield. ” She served as a volunteer nurse and administrator of supplies
distributed to the soldiers. Barton was also a school teacher and a clerk at the United States Patent Office (Rosenberg). During the Geneva Convention of 1882, Barton’s American Red Cross was approved and ratified. Barton was named its first president. When Michigan was consumed by forest fires in 1882, Barton realized the need to expand their operations to disaster relief. Their relief operations encompassed storm and flood volunteer works. The American Red Cross is a non-profit, non-stock organization that received its funding from public donations (Rosenberg).