The Quincy Humane Society's first 20 years

This medallion from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shows a horse about to be beaten and symbolizes the work of the Quincy Humane Society. 

On April 16, 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was established in New York City under the leadership of Henry Bergh. Less than 20 years later, a similar group was established in Quincy. Bergh was lauded for his efforts by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who referred to him as “…The friend of every friendless beast.” The driving force behind Quincy’s efforts was Thaddeus Rogers, who was similarly honored for his service to the people and animals of this city. His obituary referred to Rogers as “a man of generous impulse,” who took every opportunity to help his community.

The Quincy ASPCA was established in 1880 and is one of the oldest in the nation. Its mission statement at the time of incorporation was: “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals, to enforce all laws which are now or may be heretofore enacted for the protection of animals, and to secure by lawful means, the arrest, conviction, and punishment of all persons violating such laws.”

The provisions of the corporation included the need for a board of six directors, a humane officer and a legal counselor. Of note was the listing of duties of the humane officer which included assisting the secretary “with the matter of collecting dues.” Also, a bit unusual by today’s standards was the cap the Society placed on compensation for the attorney; his fees were “not to exceed $300.00 for any one year.”

From the beginning, the ASPCA devoted its efforts not only to “dumb animals,” but also to victims of all manner of human abuse. From its inception, the Quincy society worked with similar goals in mind.

An example of this is found in the Sept. 7, 1882 Whig article which mentioned “the scandalous condition of affairs that prevails in the insane and hospital departments of the county poorhouse." The piece continues adding “the members of the Humane Society who have the facts in hand must press the case to a thorough investigation.” The article closes by saying that the deplorable situation in this local institution is “not a question of politics nor of dollars and cents, but a question of humanity … the Humane Society did not begin its work a moment too soon.”

In another newspaper article of that year, the role of the Humane Society was described as the “protector of society … on behalf of some sick, suffering and cruelly-used child, or some poor, starved, overworked and beaten animal.” It also noted that during the previous year, the group was responsible for these actions: “59 horses and mules ordered out of work, 28 complaints of cruelty to children were attended to, 6 children were taken from houses of prostitution, and 493 persons were admonished for cruelty.”

The Society’s 1885 annual report stated that “… 22 animals were ordered out of work and 13 killed (euthanized), 4 sheep were untied, 88 people were admonished for cruelty, 16 families were visited [and] 4 children were taken from their parents.” A sidenote from that same year indicated that the Society had informed merchants that “they must use coops in delivering to their customers fowls of any kind, as the law forbids them to tie or crossing [sic] their wings on their back.” There was also discussion regarding watering cattle in railroad cars. The result was the acknowledgement that the “shippers generally give or send orders whether to feed and water their cattle or not, and the men in the stockyards obey the orders sent.”

Jumping to December 1891, the Whig ran an article again about the management of the poor farm. A lack of funding was discussed, and a plan was developed to improve the situation. If this plan did not work, “it is probable that the Humane Society officers will give up in disgust.” The newspaper continued “But while many of our citizens look to the Society to correct all abuses and sometimes find fault because it does not act promptly enough, few seem to realize that there is more or less expense attached to the carrying out of all good work.” The Board of the Society reminded fellow citizens that “the people of Quincy should furnish the necessary money to pay the expenses of the Society and the officers should not be asked to start out on a begging tour every time they run out of funds.”

In the July 12,1892, the Whig warned parents “not to abuse their children” and went on to specify that 155 drivers had been “warned and compelled to warm and keep their teams out of cold water.” Four hundred one owners were also “reprimanded for overloading their teams and many loads caused to be lightened.”

An interesting item in the April 10, 1897 Whig informed readers that the Humane Society was involved in “sending trained nurses among the poor.” The article continued by noting that this support “proved most satisfactory and beneficial” and that these efforts were “educating poorer families regarding the care of the sick, the preparation of food and methods of proper sanitation.”

Closing out the 19th century, the Humane Society added another program to its offerings. In 1898, the Society voted to send copies of the magazine “Our Dumb Animals” to every school in Adams County. The subscription information to the schools included the suggestion that “selections from them will be read to the pupils, and in this manner humanitarian principles will be inculcated in the minds of the rising generation.” At that time, this involved 22 townships with approximately eight schools each, or over 175 copies of the publication. Also, that year’s annual report specified that “12 persons reprimanded for throwing nails and glass in streets and alleys.”

The dawning of the 20th century called for the Quincy Humane Society to continue to deal with all manner of human and animal abuse, as well as some societal behavioral issues, a trend that was to continue until the Depression and the resulting social programs of the 1930s.


“Annual Report.” Quincy Humane Society. 1897.

“For the Sake of Humanity.” Quincy Whig, October 5, 1898.

“Humane Society.” Quincy Whig, September 7, 1882, 4.

“Humane Society.” Quincy Daily Journal, January 21, 1885, 1.

“The Humane Society.” Quincy Whig, June 4, 1885.

“Humane Society.” Quincy Whig, July 12, 1892, 8.

“The Humane Society: Proceedings of the Regular Quarterly Meeting.” Quincy Whig, April 10, 1897.

“Humane Work.” Quincy Whig, November 22, 1883.

“Meeting of the Humane Society. Quincy Whig, June 4, 1885, 1.

“Quincy Humane Society.” [Unpublished papers]. Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

Beth Young is a retired Quincy educator. After thirty three years in the Quincy Public Schools, she held part time instructional positions at both JWCC and QU. She holds degrees from Quincy College and NIU, and did additional graduate work at Oxford University.

The Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County is preserving the Governor John Wood Mansion, the History Museum on the Square, the 1835 Log Cabin, the Livery, the Lincoln Gallery displays, and a collection of artifacts and documents that tell the story of who we are. This award-winning column is written by members of the Society. For more information visit or email

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