Capt. thos. Coram...

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Capt. thos. Coram...
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William Nutter after William Hogarth

Capt. Thos. Coram, who after 17 Years unwearied application, obtained the Charter of the Foundling Hospital.

London, baldwin, Cradock & Joy 1822

Stipple engraving



A fine full-length, seated portrait of the philanthropist and master mariner Captain Thomas Coram (1668 ?-1751), founder of the Foundling Hospital. This orphanage, the first of its kind in the world, was inaugurated by Captain Coram after his return from Massachusetts, when he was deeply shocked by the sight of children "left to die on dunghills", in the streets of London. After seventeen years work, and the patronage of a committee of twelve aristocratic ladies, a house was rented in Hatton Garden in 1741. This soon proved to be inadequate and land near Lamb's Conduit was bought from the Earl of Salisbury and work begun on the new building, designed by Theodore Jacobsen in 1742. Originally entry to the hospital was on a first come first served basis, but this caused disturbances in the street when disappointed mothers were told to take their children elsewhere. The Governors then decided on a balloting system, those drawing a black ball from a bag were refused, while those drawing a white were admitted. Eventually only the first child of an unmarried mother who had to previously have been of good reputation would be admitted, and then only if the child was under a year old and the father had deserted both mother and child. Children were sent into the country to be fostered until they were five years old, then brought back to the hospital to be educated. Most boys joined the army, while the girl's were either apprenticed to milliners and dressmakers or trained to become ladies' maids. Hogarth was a great admirer of Coram, and a patron and Governor of the Hospital. He subsequently said that painting this portrait had 'given him more satisfaction than any other of his portraits and that he had put more effort into it'. At Hogarth's instigation many other distinguished artists gave paintings to decorate the Governor's Court Room, and this encouraged the public to come and see the pictures, and thus contribute towards the upkeep of the hospital. Hogarth has depicted his friend seated beside a table, dressed in a full skirted coat and waistcoat, holding his gloves in one hand and the Great Seal of the Hospital in the other. His right arm rests on the table on which also rests the boxed copy of the Hospital's Royal Charter. At his feet is a world globe, a book and his tricorne hat, and in the background the sea is visible through an open window