1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/George Junior Republic

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GEORGE JUNIOR REPUBLIC, an American industrial institution, situated near the small village of Freeville, in Tompkins county, New York, U.S.A., 9 m. E.N.E. of Ithaca, at the junction of the Sayre-Auburn and the Elmira-Cortland branches of the Lehigh Valley railway. The George Junior Republic forms a miniature state whose economic, civic and social conditions, as nearly as possible, reproduce those of the United States, and whose citizenship is vested in young people, especially those who are neglected or wayward, who are thus taught self-reliance, self-control and morality. The founder, William Reuben George (b. 1866), was a native of West Dryden, a village near Freeville, who as a business man in New York City became interested in the Fresh Air Fund charity supervised by the New York Tribune, took charge of summer outings for city children (1890-1894), and, becoming convinced that such charities tended to promote pauperism and crime among the older of their protégés, devised first (1894) the plan of requiring payment by the children in labour for all they received during these summer jaunts, then (1895) self-government for a summer colony near Freeville, and finally a permanent colony, in which the children stay for several years. The Republic was founded on the 10th of July 1895; the only check on the powers of executive, representative and judicial branches of the government lies in the veto of the superintendent. “Nothing without labour” is the motto of the community, so strictly carried out that a girl or boy in the Republic who has not money[1] to pay for a night’s lodging must sleep in jail and work the next day for the use of the cell. The legislative body, originally a House of Representatives and a Senate, in 1899 became more like the New England town meeting. The respect for the law that follows its enactment by the citizens themselves is remarkable in a class so largely of criminal tendencies; and it is particularly noticeable that positions on the police force are eagerly coveted. Fifteen is the age of majority; suffrage is universal, children under fifteen must be in charge of a citizen guardian. The average age of citizens was seventeen in 1908. The proportion of girls to boys was originally small, but gradually increased; in 1908 there were about 70 girls and 90 boys. The tendency is to admit only those aged at least sixteen and physically well equipped. In the Republic’s earlier years the citizens lived in boarding-houses of different grades, but later in family groups in cottages (there were in 1910 twelve cottages) under the care of “house-mothers.” The labour of the place is divided into sewing, laundry work, cooking and domestic service for the girls, and furniture making, carpentry, farm work, baking bread and wafers (the business of an Auburn biscuit factory was bought in 1903), plumbing and printing for the boys. Masonry and shoe and harness making were tried for a few years. There is an efficient preparatory and high school, from which students enter directly leading colleges. The religious influence is strong, wholesome and unsectarian; students in Auburn Theological Seminary have assisted in the religious work; Roman Catholic and Hebrew services are also held; and attendance at church services is compulsory only on convicts and prisoners.

There are “Woman’s Aid” societies in New York City, Ithaca, Syracuse, Buffalo, Boston and elsewhere, to promote the work of the Republic. A “republic” for younger boys, begun at Freeville, was established in Litchfield, Connecticut; and a National Junior Republic near Annapolis Junction, Maryland, and a Carter Junior Republic at Readington, near Easton, Pennsylvania, are modelled on the George Junior Republic. In 1908-1910 new “states” were established at Chino, California, Grove City, Pennsylvania, and Flemington Junction, New Jersey. In February 1908 the National Association of Junior Republics was formed with Mr George (its founder) as its director, its aims being to establish at least one “republic” in each state of the Union, and in other countries similar institutions for youth and miniature governments modelled on that of the country in which each “state” is established, and to establish colonies for younger children, to be sent at the age of fifteen to the Junior Republic. At the time of its formation the National Association included the “states” at Freeville, N.Y., Litchfield, Conn., and Annapolis Junction, Md.; others joined the federation later.

See William R. George, The Junior Republic: its History and Ideals (New York, 1910); The Junior Republic Citizen (Freeville, 1895 sqq.), written and printed by “citizens”; Nothing Without Labor, George Junior Republic (7th ed., Freeville, 1909), a manual; J.R. Commons, “The Junior Republic,” in The American Journal of Sociology (1898); D.F. Lincoln, “The George Junior Republic,” in The Coming Age (1900); and Lyman Abbott, “A Republic within a Republic,” in the Outlook for February 15, 1908.

  1. The “government” issued its own currency in tin and later in aluminium, and “American” money could not be passed within the 48 acres of the Republic until 1906, when depreciation forced the Republic’s coinage out of use and “American” coin was made legal tender.