Foundling swatches are ‘bits and pieces’ such as cloth scraps, mementos, jewelry or any other identifying objects that were left with abandoned children upon admittance to the foundling hospital. These swatches were sometimes helpful in reuniting the child and mother at a future time.

Foundling swatches tell a story.
Foundling swatches tell a story.

Numerous such foundling swatches were rediscovered approximately 250 years after they had been left with the children. They were long forgotten as they were wrapped in paper that was folded numerous times and filed away in books at the Foundling Hospital opened by Captain Thomas Coram in 1741 by charter from King George II.

Among these sad ‘scraps’ were a needlework sampler found with a boy later named William Porter in December of 1759, who sadly died on May 27, 1760; a patchwork scrap with an embroidered heart that had been cut in half (presumably the mother kept the other half) left with a boy later named Benjamin Twirl by those at the hospital and who was later reclaimed by his mother Sara Bender on June 10, 1775; a swatch of linen painted with an array of playing cards left with a boy named Joseph Floyd and apprenticed in 1769; a red wool heart cut from a garment and left with a girl named Isabel Crane on November 22, 1758, who died on December 16, 1758 .

The opening of this foundling hospital was an innovative idea at the time and provided some hope for the children who might otherwise have been abandoned, neglected, or have died of disease and/or malnutrition..

Periodically, these foundling swatches helped to achieve a happy ending, as in the case of Benjamin Twirl and Sara Bender.

photo credit: limaoscarjuliet