Offered is an extremely rare, C1920s, Federal agency building sign denoting offices for the Bureau For Colored Children. It is quite likely that this 100+ year old sign remains the only one in existence today.
Given that this sign is clearly segregating services for African-American children despite the fact that this was a federal agency, one can only hypothesize that this sign was placed on the exterior of a federal building in a state that endorsed and enforced segregation.
There does exist in the Temple University archives, Philadelphia, a brief notation of a "Bureau for Colored Children", founded in 1927, as a shelter at 321 North 41st Street in Philadelphia, PA, for dependent and neglected African American children. It provided a foster care program as well as operation of a farm and vocational school for boys in Pomeroy, PA. The Bureau disbanded sometime after 1963, when The State Department of Public Welfare withdrew financial support for failure to meet standards for childcare agencies. This sign could have possibly come from that Pennsylvania agency.
A quick history of this agency drawn from the federal publication, "The Story of the Children's Bureau, 1912-2012":
At the turn of the 20th century, conditions for children in America were deplorable; 1 in 10 infants did not survive the first year of life, and very often, many children were forced to leave school to help support their families, oftentimes working under dangerous conditions.
Those who were orphaned were crowded into large institutions where they received little care or attention.
Lillian D. Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City, and her friend, Florence Kelley, are credited with conceiving the idea for a Federal agency to promote child health and welfare in 1903. Impressed with the concept, a friend of Wald’s wired President Theodore Roosevelt, who promptly invited the group to the White House to discuss it further.
After nearly ten years of discussions with multiple groups, committees, and individuals, as well as numerous failures of Congress to pass a federal bill addressing the plight of these children, Congress, in 1912, finally passed the Act creating the Children’s Bureau, charging it “to investigate and report . . . upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people.”
President William Howard Taft signed the bill on April 9, 1912, and the agency continues its work today.
Measuring 24" wide x 18" tall, the sign features a beveled-edged, copper base mounted on a wood frame featuring approximately 3/8" high, raised, solid brass letters ranging from 2" to 3.25" tall. The copper backing is securely bolted onto the wood frame from the front with four brass bolts, one positioned at each corner, adding a decorative element to the sign. Each letter is securely screwed into the copper base from the back of the sign as seen in one of the photos. The sign is marked by the manufacturer, "ABELE" on the lower center of the base underneath the letters "L" and "D" in the word, "CHILDREN".
Fabulous patina to both the copper and brass with just a slight edge crimping below the "N" in "CHILDREN" as noted in photo. Condition consistent of a 100+ year old, extremely well-made sign that was mounted on the exterior of a building. Areas of the copper background surface that appear to be lighter in some areas and in some photos are the result of flash only; the color and patina of the copper background surface is even with consistent aging throughout.
Truly an extraordinary piece of African-American cultural history reflective of an era and time- on the Federal Level, no less- of continued ignorant, obtuse and repugnant belief and behavior.