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The Russell Sage Foundation

Lewis Wickes Hine, Homestead Has No Playground, Little Playfellows who need a decent show, Pittsburgh Survey, c. 1908.
Lewis Wickes Hine, Homestead Has No Playground, Little Playfellows who need a decent show, Pittsburgh Survey, c. 1908.

The Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) was a philanthropic organization that funded research efforts to analyze social problems and campaigned for reform initiatives to solve the very social problems that it studied. Russell Sage (1815–1906) was a wealthy financial speculator from New York who amassed a huge fortune through his ownership of several Western railroads and the Western Union Telegraph Company. After his death, his widow, Margaret Sage (1828–1918), established the RSF in New York City in 1907, which she launched with a generous gift of $35 million. In her husband's honor, Margaret also founded Russell Sage College in Troy, New York, in 1916. From 1907 to 1947, the RSF focused on exposing social problems through studying labor and industrial relations, child welfare, and public welfare.

The Pittsburgh Survey was one of the first sociological projects in the United States to combine scholarly social research with the political activism characteristic of the Progressive Era. The findings of the Pittsburgh Survey were used by social activists to lobby for much-needed political reforms, such as abolishing child labor, improving public health, and instituting better city planning. For the next half-century, the RSF would continue to commission numerous studies to examine and solve social problems, until budget problems in the late 1940s caused it to reduce the number of studies like the Pittsburgh Survey. Today, the Russell Sage Foundation studies a wide variety of important issues for American society, including race relations, immigration, and the future of the American economy.

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Photographs and Archival Materials

Photographs, maps, charts, and posters from the Pittsburgh Survey can be found in the Social Museum Collection at the Fogg Art Museum.

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