As this introduction to the book Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History demonstrates, there is a large literature on the topic.
A general point to keep in mind is that the market economy has raised standards of living to heights unimaginable just 200 years ago. If there was less charity before the nineteenth century, one reason might be that people were poor. Imagine the efficacy charity could achieve today if governments didn’t interfere with it. Even bearing the enormous burden of their destructive welfare programs, we are so productive through market activity that most everyone can be charitable.