Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, x, 208 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Richard Hamm

Committee Members

Amy Murrell Taylor, Christopher Pastore


Juvenile delinquency, Orphans, Poor children, Child welfare, Reformatories

Subject Categories

Education | Pacific Islands Languages and Societies | United States History


This dissertation explores the education of one of the first inmates of the New York House of Refuge, the first juvenile reformatory in the country. The relationship between reformatory staff and inmates is considered, along with indenturing practices of the institution, including the practice of indenturing a significant number of boys to the whaling industry. In the case of Thomas Sweeny, the Refuge’s plan for reformation was successful because of the unique circumstances that led Sweeny to live for a time as a beachcomber in the islands of the South Pacific. His skill at acquiring languages and his ability to act as a liaison between the indigenous people of the islands and visiting Westerners secured for Sweeny a position of high status in the Marquesas and New Zealand.