The ignominy of being 'on the town'

  The Middletown (Conn.) Alms (Poor) House, where the town's indigent would live at the expense of the town.

The Middletown (Conn.) Alms (Poor) House, where the town's indigent would live at the expense of the town.

“In a society still under the sway of Calvinist attitudes, as were the rural communities of New England, a degree of disgrace would attach to the condition of being poor….Thus to “go on the town’’ would be viewed as an ignominy to be avoided if at all possible – and of course it would be a public ignominy, for everyone knew who the poor were and often they would be discussed in town meeting.’’

-- From The New England Town in Fact and Fiction, by Perry Westbrook.