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Mapping the Boston Poor: Inmates of the Boston Almshouse, 1795-1801


Documentary and geographical evidence about Boston from 1795 to 1801 reveals distinct patterns in poor people's use of the Boston Almshouse and in their areas of residence within the city. A much higher percentage of Almshouse inmates came from Boston's densely populated North End than from less urban areas with lower population densities. They clustered in distinctive ways—immigrants tending to come from districts close to commercial and shipping areas, and women and families from the outskirts of town. Recurrent users of the almshouse were highly mobile, likely to have changed their ward of residence at least once from 1795 to 1801. This geographical mobility on the part of the poor continuously recreated the city and challenged the contours of class and tradition.

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