painted by William Hogarth, 1740
Lyme Regis, Dorset,
|Died||29 March 1751|
Captain Thomas Coram (c. 1668 – 29 March 1751) was a philanthropist who created the London Foundling Hospital to look after unwanted children in Lamb's Conduit Fields, Bloomsbury. It is said to be the world's first incorporated charity.
Coram was born in Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK. He spent much of his early life at sea and in the American colonies. From 1694 to 1705, he operated a ship building business at Taunton, Massachusetts. He afterwards became a successful merchant in London. In 1717, he unsuccessfully promoted the idea of founding a colony called Georgia in what is today Maine as a philanthropic venture. In 1732, he became a trustee of James Oglethorpe’s Georgia colony. In 1735 he sponsored a colony in Nova Scotia for unemployed artisans.
As a philanthropist Coram was appalled by the many abandoned, homeless children living in the streets of London. On 17 October 1739 he obtained a Royal Charter granted by George II establishing a "hospital for the maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children."
In 1742-1745, the Foundling Hospital was erected in Bloomsbury. William Hogarth was among the first governors of the hospital. He painted a famous portrait of Thomas Coram (1740; now Foundling Museum, London; reproduced in stipple by William Nutter [1754-1802] for R. Cribb in 1796), and, together with some of his fellow artists, decorated the Governors' Court Room, which contains paintings by Francis Hayman, Thomas Gainsborough and Richard Wilson. He contributed paintings for the benefit of the Foundation, and the Foundling Hospital became the first art gallery open to the public.
George Frederic Handel allowed a concert performance of Messiah to benefit the foundation, and donated the manuscript of the Halleluja Chorus to the hospital. He also composed an anthem specially for a performance at the Hospital, now called the Foundling Hospital Anthem.
The Foundling Hospital charity continues today and is known as Coram, still delivering services which transform children's lives from the same historic site. The original site also contains a children's play area, Coram's Fields, which refuses entry to adults unaccompanied by children.
In 2000, Jamila Gavin published a children's book called Coram Boy about the Foundling Hospital. The book was adapted into a play by Helen Edmundson, which had its world premiere at the Royal National Theatre in London in November 2005 and recently had a brief run on Broadway.
- Harriet Amos and Alice Meyers: Thomas Coram: The Man Who Saved Children: London: Foundling Museum: 2006: ISBN 0-9551808-0-5
- Gillian Wagner: Thomas Coram, Gent: 1668-175: Woodbridge, Suffolk/Rochester, New York: Boydell Press: 2004: ISBN 1-84383-057-4
- Gillian Pugh: London's Forgotten Children: Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital: NPI Media Group: 2007: ISBN 0-7524-4244-9
- Jack Dwyer: Dorset Pioneers: The History Press: 2009: ISBN 978-0-7524-5346-0
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Coram, Thomas.|
- OCA1947 - Old Coram Association
- Find-A-Grave profile for Thomas Coram
- Thomas Coram Research Unit
- The Thomas Coram Middle School, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire