Changing Pictures of Childhood: Movie, 1946

Movie Documenting the Daily Life of Boys at the Lyman School, 1946

(26 minutes)

This online exhibit concludes with a film that was discovered in the Westborough Room in the Westborough Public Library in 2015. Westborough TV digitized the silent movie and asked Rev. Frederick “Bob” Brown to add narration. Rev. Brown served as Lyman School chaplain and administrator from 1959 until the school’s closing in 1971. The newly digitized film had its world premiere on March 26, 2018 at the Westborough High School Auditorium in front of over 200 people.

Click on the image to start the movie.

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Changing Pictures of Childhood – Exhibit Extras 

The images below are from The History of Boys, a register that recorded information about boys admitted to the State Reform School (later renamed the Lyman School for Boys) during the years 1856 and 1857. The first “history” connects the student and his family to slavery and the Underground Railroad, and the second provides details of the boy’s experience of growing up in abject poverty.

You can read more histories online at the digital version available through the Digital Commonwealth:

James Buchanan, p. 1
James Buchanan, p. 2

James Buchanan – Transcription

No. 80           MORAL HISTORY OF    James Buchanan

Age, 14 yrs. Born March 8, 1842 in Washington.

Committed Nov. 12, 1856            from New Bedford Pol.[ice] Court

for Vagrancy

Sentence,    Minority in S.[tate] R.[eform] S.[chool]

Or 6 months in the H[ouse] of C[orrection].

Parents,       Henry & Mary B. Colored. Americans.

Father was slave & bought his time. Mother takes in washing

she was born free. Father died 5 years ago.

Their Character,  Father worked in a tavern as waiter,

was temperate & honest. Mother was

kind to the children, provided a good home,

Father used to conceal fugitive slaves & then hire a horse

& carriage & carry them as far as Baltimore.

Their Religion,     They were Baptists. went to

meeting. Children went to S.[unday] S.[chool] Had morning &

evening prayers, and a prayer meeting Tuesday night.

General Character before Committed,       Before he came to New-

Bedford worked with uncle & did chores for mother.

Did not go to school, no free schools for colored children in

Washington. White boys beat colored children if they go to school.

He came to New B.[edford] with uncle who had to leave W.[ashington] for con-

cealing & carrying off 4 men & 4 women slaves.

They threatened to imprison him if he did not leave.

Worked with uncle in N.[ew] B.[edford] & went to school. Played

truant from school, & from uncles house, stayed out

nights, & got a living by doing errands for people, was gone

from under six weeks, was loafing, round the Depot,

was in the habit of lying & swearing.

General Character since commitment,      Feb[ruar]y 12, 1857. Has been

whipped, cuffed, & pinched for talking in school. is a pretty

good boy.


Daniel B. Johnson, p. 1
Daniel B. Johnson, p. 2

Daniel B. Johnson – Transcription

No. 153          MORAL HISTORY OF    Daniel B. Johnson

Age 12 yrs. Born       1845 in           Mass.

Committed Apr. 8, 1857   from Pawtucket

for being an idle or disorderly person.

Sentence,    three years in State Reform School

Or 60 days in House of Correction

Parents,       Sterry & Abigail Johnson. Americans.

Father sold liquor once in Coventry, also sold oranges & candy.

Their Character,  They are dishonest and live a wretched life.

Boy says his father & mother sometimes went off to Providence or

some other place & were gone a week or so. Sometimes father

went alone. when they returned they had money. Mother sometimes

drinks to intoxication, works in factory, father works

on farm & chops wood.

Their Religion,     They do not go to church

very often.     Sometimes Mother went to Catholic

Meeting with an Irish neighbor. “Father would sometimes

take the money from drunken men who were drunk at his house,” “but he

gave it back”?

General Character before Committed,       Never went to school more

than two months, worked out a little and was idle the

most of the time. was scarcely covered with clothes when

he came here, ragged & dirty & ignorant. Did not know

his age or the town he lived in. Cannot give an intelligible

account of himself or his father & mother. Went to S.[unday] S.[chool]

a few times in Providence after the city missionary had clothed

him up. Swore sometimes & has told two lies, has stole apples

& once stole potatoes for a miss[?] to cook.

General Character since commitment,      July 28. Has been punished for neglect-

Ing his work & for playing in school.


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Exhibit Navigation for “Changing Pictures of Childhood: A Comparative History of Child Welfare in Westborough”: