Typical African American Orphanage of the Day
Typical African American Orphanage for Girls – Late 19th Century

Johns Hopkins, a Quaker and a strong proponent of abolition, was a Baltimore businessman who made his fortune in business as well as in the railroads.

Upon his death, it was Hopkins’ intent that the bulk of his fortune be used to establish a Baltimore hospital and university. In addition, he also earmarked a portion of his riches to finance an orphanage for Baltimore’s homeless African-American children.

Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins

After his passing in 1873, the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum was founded. Opening in 1875 with 26 children, the orphanage was established at 206 West Biddle street†.

Praised by prominent periodicals of the time, it was modeled after other successful and similar institutions throughout Europe and America.

The orphanage itself wasn’t new.  It traced its roots to the time of the Civil War.  Originally conceived by members of the Society of Friends, the institution’s inception actually came about to meet the needs of Baltimore’s ‘contraband’ population.

A free city behind Union lines, Baltimore was home to a number of runaway slaves whose children had pressing needs for food and shelter.  It was this institution, upon Hopkins’ death, that became the Colored Orphan Asylum.

Hopkins’ vision was for an orphanage that cared for both girls and boys. Indeed, it was his hope that his orphanage would become a nurturing home for upwards of 400 children.

However, after the asylum opened, its mission was changed.


Where once it was intended for both girls and boys, its trustees soon began only accepting orphaned girls. And in addition to Hopkins’ goal to provide education and shelter, its girls were trained in domestic work, and were put to work in homes of prominent families throughout Baltimore.

Hopkins’ dream was never fully realized; By 1892 his orphanage sheltered a mere 28 African American girls.

Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum Description

In 1894 the orphanage was moved to Remington Avenue and 31st street.  In 1913 the Asylum’s Board of Trustees changed the orphanage’s mission, and converted it into a convalescent home for “crippled colored children who received orthopedic treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital.”

The existing children, who had called the orphanage home, were uprooted and placed under the supervision of the hospital’s social service department. They were sent to live and work in private homes, or transferred to other Baltimore area institutions.

In 1917 the convalescent home was closed. Seven years later, after the last remaining orphan came of age, Hopkins’ social services department shuttered the endeavor.

Numismatic Specimens

There exist several token emissions of the Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum. Rulau reports three varieties consisting of 1-cent, 5-cent, and 10-cent denominations, while Schenkman reports two. The following table outlines these emissions:

Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum Varieties

Stylistically, all three varieties possess a reverse that depicts a numeral and a sun ray pattern. There exist two known engravers who frequently utilized a sun ray design.

The first engraver was Silas H. Quint of Philadelphia. The second engraver was J.F. Dorman of Baltimore.  Given that both the asylum and Dorman were both in Baltimore, it is most plausible that Dorman produced the tokens.

Below is a Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum 1-cent token. The specimen is NGC graded at AU-58.

Rulau Md-Ba-51 Johns Hopkins Colored Orphan Asylum 1-cent Dorman

Aaron Packard [End Mark]

Notes and Sources

† The address was later renumbered to 519 West Biddle street.

  1. Cabinet of Aaron Packard, Numismatist – Rulau Md-Ba-51
  2. Medical Annals of Baltimore from 1608 to 1880, John Russel Quinan, Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland, 1884
  3. Twenty-Fifth Report of the Superintendent of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1914
  4. Benevolent Institutions, Edwin Munsell Bliss, John Koren, Joseph Adna Hill, United States Bureau of the Census, 1910, pg.108
  5. The Selected Papers of Jane Addams: vol. 2: Venturing into Usefulness 1881-88, Mary Lynn McCree Bryan and Barbara Bair, University of Illinois Press, ©2009
  6. Woods Baltimore City Directory, John W. Woods, 1879
  7. The Stranger in Baltimore, John F. Weishampel, 1888, pg.82
  8. Archives of Maryland, Volume 0418, Page 331, Session Laws, 1882 Special Session
  9. The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  10. Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
  11. Virginia Tokens, David Schenkman, The Virginia Numismatic Association, ©1980
  12. Scrip, Stuart E. Brown JR, Virginia Book Co, ©1978
  13. The New York Public Library Digital Archives
Aaron Packard


  1. Is this token for sale? I have a customer interested in one. This is Keith Stickland of Flagship Coins & Currency. 410-627-2855. Thank you very much

    1. Author

      Hi Keith –

      This token is not for sale.

      Thank you,

      Aaron Packard

  2. This is unbelievable as I was not aware of any tangible proof of the COA’s existence. In my book, “Remington: The History of a Baltimore Neighborhood,” I describe the creation and eventual demise of the this institution, but nowhere in my research did I ever see mention of actual coinage being paid to the girls who had to earn their keep. This is indeed a great find!

    1. Author

      Glad you found this helpful.

      Kind regards,

      Aaron Packard

  3. I enjoyed reading your article. I grew-up with an appreciation of the histories of various types of tokens, hard times, patriotic and merchant tokens mostly, therefore your scholarship was new to me. Thank you! Hal Stuart

    1. Author

      Hellow Hal –

      Thank you for the kind feedback. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading the article. Please feel free to come back from time to time as new articles are published.


      Aaron Packard

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