Time Machine Tuesday: Public Welfare and Institutions, 1939

Our library collection contains many state reports about public welfare in the Great Depression.  Among these is a report from 1939, addressed to the Governor and State Legislature, regarding corrections and institutions.  The report examines “the functions, the internal organization, and the more important procedures of the welfare institutions of the state.”  These institutions included the Colorado State Hospital; the Colorado Psychopathic Hospital; the two branches of the State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives; the Colorado General Hospital; the State Reformatory; the State Industrial Schools, which included one for boys and one for girls; the State Penitentiary; the State Home for Dependent and Neglected Children; and the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.  The report details results of a study and recommendations to state leadership regarding state oversight of these institutions.

Among their recommendations was the establishment of a state Department of Institutions. Prior to the Great Depression institutions had been overseen by a Board of Charities and Corrections, but as the population grew and many suffered the economic effects of the Depression, the need for a larger state agency became apparent.  The State Department of Institutions was officially created about a decade later, in 1951, and lasted until 1994, when its functions were split between various new departments including the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services.

Researchers can learn more about all of the institutions examined in the 1939 report by consulting the many reports on each individual institution, available from our library.  Among those accessible online are

There are many more reports on Colorado’s early state institutions available for viewing in print from our library.  Search our library’s online catalog for titles.