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Children's Home Society of Florida Collection

Identifier: SC.054

Scope and Contents

The Children's Home Society of Florida Collection contains personal and organizational papers, photographs, audio and visual materials, as well as ledgers and scrapbooks. The collection is arranged by both content and materials types and have been organized into the following series:

Series I: Biographical Files, 1900-1991, contains the files of individuals who were instrumental in the creation and/or the operations of the Children's Home Society of Florida. Correspondence makes up the majority of this series as it show the creation of the society (Comstock, Harkins, Seaton), its resurrection (Fagg), and its continued operations.

Series II: State Organizational Files, 1886-2000, includes files that were used in the operations of the society as a whole. Financial documents, correspondence, reports, as well as the meeting minutes of the various committees that ran the society can be found in this series.

Series III: Division Files, 1921-circa 1995, consists of files for local divisions located throughout the state. Some divisions are no longer in operation, having been closed completely or absorbed into another division. These older divisions can be found here in their original name. Meeting minutes for each division are also located here.

Series IV: Photographs and Audio Visual, 1902-1997, holds both audio and visual media used by the Children's Home Society of Florida in promoting their society as well as raising funds.

Series V: Ledger and Scrapbooks, 1902-1978, includes miscellaneous ledger and scrapbooks created by the Children's Home Society of Florida. The ledger books vary in format but are generally are either inventory or accounting in nature. The scrapbooks are made up of five volumes, all created by workers at the Children's Home Society of Florida. News clippings make up the majority of the scrapbooks contents but some do contain publications made by the Children's Home Society of Florida. There are also four Rose Keller Home scrapbooks made by workers at the Rose Keller Division in Lakeland, Florida. The Rose Keller Home scrapbooks give a brief history of the division as well as chronicle events at the home.

Series VI: Additional Materials, 1862-2012, holds additional materials received from the Children's Home Society of Florida including organizational files, ephemera, photographs and audio/visual materials.


  • 1862-2012
  • Majority of material found within 1902-1997


Language of Materials

English .

Conditions Governing Access

The entire collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder

Biographical or Historical Information

To be an orphan in Florida at the turn of the twentieth century was a dangerous prospect. Children were being orphaned due to farm and industrial accidents and numerous poor families had to give up children they could no longer afford. Many children were abused and there were few laws that protected children's rights. Homeless children had little place to go where they could be safe, properly cared for, and loved.

In response to this increasing crisis, the National Children's Home Society was formed in Illinois in 1883 to help place children who had been orphaned in farming and industrial accidents, spreading to several other states over the next decade. The Revered D. W. Comstock came to Jacksonville, Florida in 1902 as a representative of the National Children's Home Society to help organize the state's first child welfare society. On November 17, 1902, with the help of Rev. D. W. Comstock and Jacksonville's city and religious leaders, The Children's Home Society of Florida (CHSFL) was established. The welfare of the child was the society's primary focus, making sure that if the family could not be preserved that the child was placed in a happy and healthy home.

The CHSFL was developed as a non-profit organization, relying solely on donations from the community. Fund-raising efforts began as administrative duties were carried out in private homes around the city. The children were also were being cared for in private residences as there was not yet a home secured for the society to board its charges. The CHSFL committed itself to not only children but to babies who were not accepted until the age of three at state orphanages (Mahoney, 5). Money was tight for the society and within the first few years, the CHSFL found itself in deep debt. By September of 1910, the CHSFL was facing the possibility of ending operations when a new state superintendent for the society entered its doors. Marcus C. Fagg was just 24 when he took control of the CHSFL but within a few short months, he had already obtained funding to start his first appeals drive. Many in the society to this day believe that it was Marcus C. Fagg who saved the CHSFL from closing its doors and built it to the standards that society members and workers adhere to today. Fagg's compassion towards children also did not go unnoticed; from his early years with the CHSFL, many children he helped referred to him as "Daddy" Fagg as a token of their appreciation for finding them loving homes.

Marcus Fagg brought innovative solutions to a dire financial situation. Using land donated or sold at cost to the society, Fagg either rented or sold land at higher costs to turn a profit. Fagg also helped poor families by renting them homes at drastically reduced rental costs with an option to later buy the homes. Marcus Fagg helped dozens of poor families regain their footing while also helping the CHSFL emerge from a deep hole of financial debt.

Though Marcus Fagg began to save the society financially, the society still fell on hard times. The country became entangled in the agony of the Great Depression in the 1930s and the CHSFL suffered with the rest of the nation. The Miami receiving home was lost due to a lack of finances but was thankfully picked up and operated by the Junior League until 1936 when CHSFL was able to once again run the home. Marcus Fagg also made history in 1932 by becoming the first chairman of the new Florida State Welfare Board. Through the 1940s and 1950s, CHSFL was instrumental in securing rights and welfare laws for children nationwide. CHSFL was one of the founding members of the Child Welfare League of America and was one of the only societies in the country to handle state adoptions without the aid of a state agency. The society also saw rapid growth, thanks in part to the massive fund-raising performed by Marcus Fagg; several new division offices opened throughout the state, many of whom offered special services for children. CHSFL also began offering services to unwed mothers, further committing themselves to the family rather than just simply finding homes for children.

One of the saddest moments for the CHSFL was the loss of their mentor and leader, Marcus C. "Daddy" Fagg in 1958. After Fagg's passing, newspapers throughout Florida ran headlines announcing the loss of a great state hero. Buried in a simple grave in Jacksonville, Florida, Fagg's life and legacy still serves as a reminder to the CHSFL of their continued effort to help abused and orphaned children in the state of Florida.

Segregation and integration played an important role for CHSFL in the 1960s as the society began caring for and adopting out African-American children from their receiving homes. Historically, the society took in mostly white children. As the Civil Rights movement grew in the 1960's, the society re-examined the scope of its adoption policies and began taking in and offering adoption services for the African-American community. This was a significant development both for the society and for the Civil Rights movement; African-American children were being given the same adoption services as white children at a time when the issue of race was dominant in society and politics. As the country rapidly changed, so did the society, offering for the first time services in schools for handicapped, delinquent, and abused children as well children living in racially mixed households. These services would grow and define the society through to the end of the 1990s.

Just three years into the new millennium and the society's second century of service, the CHSFL moved its headquarters from its birthplace in Jacksonville to more centrally located offices in Winter Park, Florida. Now over one hundred years old, the CHSFL offers fourteen divisions that serve the entire state of Florida.


63.50 Linear Feet (60 Boxes, 8 Scrapbooks, 18 Flat Files)


The Children's Home Society of Florida Collection contains organizational papers and ephemera that document the creation and operations of Florida's oldest non-profit adoption agency. The collection includes organizational papers from its state and local divisions, photographs, news clippings, audio and visual media, scrapbooks, and blueprints of the many receiving homes in the state, but does not contain adoption records. Adoption records remain at the CHSFL Adoption Archive and are available by contacting the society directly.

Arrangement Note

The Children's Home Society of Florida Collection is arranged into 5 series by types of content as well as by types of materials. The first three series feature personal and office files which show the birth and growth of the organization, sorted at the state and local division levels. The last two series holds audio visual and photographic ephemera as well as scrapbooks created by workers at the society.

Method of Acquisition

The Children's Home Society of Florida donated these materials to the University of Central Florida Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Department in 2004 (CFM2004_04). Additional matterials were added in 2015 (CFM2015_06), 2016 (CFM2016_03), 2017 (CFM2017_05), 2020 (CFM2020_11).

Related Materials


Georgia Gertrude Ralph, Elements of Record Keeping for Child-Helping Organizations, (New York: The De Vinne Press, 1915.)

Lawrence Mahoney, Children and Hope: A History of the Children's Home Society of Florida, (Miami: Pickering Press, 1987).

Adoption Records:

This collection does not contain any records on adopted individuals or families from the Children's Home Society of Florida. However, the society does have the CHS Adoptions Archive Unit which is dedicated to the preservation and research of these records. They can be found at here.

Other Locations:

Pensacola Historical Society's Historical Resource Center, 110 East Church Street, Pensacola, Florida 32502. Phone: (850) 434-5455 Website: (Western Division).

The University of West Florida Pace Library, Special Collections, Pensacola, Florida. (Blount Family Papers).

The State Library of Florida. Website:

Processing Information

Collection processed by Ari Karlene Anderson; finding aid prepared by April Karlene Anderson and Katie Seeler.

All paper materials have been placed in acid free folders and stored in archival containers. Some larger paper materials, such as maps and large photographs were also placed in acid free folders but are stored in archival flat files. Paper clips have been removed and replaced with plastic clips. In some cases, rusty staples have also been removed. Post-it notes have been moved to the edges of papers and copies have been made of more fragile materials such as news clippings. Photo blocks have been placed in archival trays, stored in separate bins to prevent them from scraping against one another. Any audio or visual media in cases were kept in their containers but placed collectively in archival boxes. Loose pages and items in the scrapbooks have been secured either with plastic clips or placed in archival folders and the entire book has been wrapped in acid free archival paper.

Additional materials processed and integrated into the main collection by Suphi Burak Ogreten.

Children's Home Society of Florida Collection SC.054
April Anderson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the UCF Special Collections Repository

5th Floor - Room 501
John C. Hitt Library
Orlando FL 32816 US