There are whole books written on the subject of Orphan Trains including a number of novels. Here is a short summary of this controversial episode in American history from Wikipedia: Orphan Train.
The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. The orphan trains operated between 1854 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children.
Three charitable institutions, Children's Village (founded 1851 by 24 philanthropists),the Children's Aid Society (established 1853 by Charles Loring Brace) and later, the New York Foundling Hospital, endeavored to help these children. The two institutions developed a program that placed homeless, orphaned, and abandoned city children, who numbered an estimated 30,000 in New York City alone in the 1850s, in foster homes throughout the country. The children were transported to their new homes on trains that were labeled “orphan trains” or "baby trains". This relocation of children ended in the 1920s with the beginning of organized foster care in America.The controversy comes from the fact that some (or perhaps most) of these children were treated like indentured servants or worse, although some were well cared for. Here is a selection of books and other media items on the subject. You can probably tell from this partial list that the subject was and is highly controversial.
Becker, Kristi. “Orphan Trains,” 2005.
Bracken, Jeanne Munn, and JoAnne Weisman Deitch. The Orphan Trains. Carlisle, Mass.: Discovery Enterprises, 2002.
Caravantes, Peggy. The Orphan Trains, 2014.
Films Media Group, and Public Broadcasting Service (U.S.). The Orphan Trains, 2015. http://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=13753&xtid=111647.
Flanagan, Alice K. The Orphan Trains. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006.
Haseloff, Cynthia. Changing Trains, 2013.
Hearn, Wendy, Jill Petzall, Carl Kassel, Leanie Mendelsohn, and inc Filmakers Library. The End of the Line: Orphan Trains. New York, N.Y.: Filmakers Library.
Hering, Marianne, and David Hohn. Trouble on the Orphan Train, 2016.
Holt, Marilyn Irvin. The Orphan Trains: Placing out in America. Lincoln; London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
Hurwitz, Gregg Andrew. Orphan X, 2016.
Johnson, Kristin F. The Orphan Trains. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub. Company, 2012.
Kanopy (Firm). American Experience: The Orphan Trains., 2016. http://www.kanopystreaming.com/node/181235.
Kay, Verla, and Ken Stark. Orphan Train. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2003.
Keach, Stacy. “The orphan trains.” PBS, 2006.
Langston-George, Rebecca. Orphan Trains: Taking the Rails to a New Life, 2016.
Milner, Anita Cheek. “Orphan Trains.” Genealogical Helper. Dec (1981).
Muldoon, Kathleen M. Champion of the Cornfield: An Orphan Train Story. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=464535.
———. The Real Hannah Green: An Orphan Train Story. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=464537.
O’Connor, Stephen. Orphan Trains. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. http://www.myilibrary.com?id=656158.
Orphan Train. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2014.
Orphan Trains. http://www.myilibrary.com?id=621356.
Orphan Trains., 2001.
Riley, Tom, American Female Guardian Society and Home for the Friendless, and Orphan Train Heritage Society of America. The Orphan Trains. New York: LGT Press, 2004.
Schaefer, Mary, and Barb Volp. The Orphan Trains, 1979.
Smoky Hills Public Television. Placing out: The Orphan Trains. Bunker Hills, Kan.: Smoky Hills Public Television, 2007.
Warren, Andrea. Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. New York: Scholastic, 1997.
———. We Rode the Orphan Trains. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001.
Warren, Andrea, Laura Hicks, and AudioGO (Firm). Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story. North Kingstown, RI: AudioGO, 2013. http://www.OneClickDigital.com.
Wheeler, Leslie. Orphan Trains. Place of publication not identified: publisher not identified, 1984.
———. “The Orphan Trains.” American History Illustrated 18, no. 8 (1983).
If you suspect that one or more of your ancestors participated in the Orphan Trains, the first place to start doing some research is The National Orphan Train Complex. The mission of the National Orphan Train Complex is stated as follows from their website:
The mission of the National Orphan Train Complex is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate knowledge about the orphan trains, and the children and agents who rode them. The museum’s collections, exhibitions, programming, and research will engage riders, researchers, and the general public and create an awareness of the Orphan Train Movement.The website contains lists of resources including a number of related websites. See also the following:
- Suffer the Little Children – Orphan Trains in America
- Researching Orphans in Genealogy
- Wikipedia: Orphan Train
- American Experience, The Orphan Trains
- The Children's Aid Society, The Orphan Trains
- National Orphan Train Complex
- A History of the Orphan Trains
- Riders on the Orphan Train
- The Adoption History Project, Orphan Trains
- The Orphan Train, Washington Post
- The New York Children
- Orphan Trains of Nebraska
- Orphan Trains
- Orphan Train Myths and Legal Reality
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