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The Orphan Train Movement Essay

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Starting in the 1850s, there were great increases in urbanization. Movements such as The Great Migration lead to huge populations in newly industrialized cities. In addition, there was a great increase in immigration, especially from families of eastern and southern European descent. The Orphan Train Movement’s purpose was to give the thousands of children in New York City that were left without homes due to increased urbanization and industrialization a new family out west with good living conditions and values and to increase the number of farm workers. The children mostly were placed with good families, but some children were treated as slaved by their families. Additionally, most of the children were excited to work; however, some were inept at doing farm work and were more detrimental than helpful to their new family.
The founder of The Children’s Aid Society, the driving force behind the Orphan Train Movement, was Charles Loring Brace. Brace first realized the amount of homeless children while working at a mission center. Brace wanted to give homes to the over 30,000 children living on the streets in the 1850s. Speaking about the situation at hand, Brace noted:
“There were a large number of people with nothing to do. Nobody was at fault. Work could not be found for them. But they must be relieved. Their children must be saved; and they cannot save themselves.”

He believed that the Protestant families in the west living on farms would give the children the fresh air and morals that they needed to grow up to be upstanding citizens. When thinking of the best ways to transport the children from cities like New York to the western part of America, The Children’s Aid Society decided to take advantage of the over 30,500 miles...


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...em to the New York Foundling Hospital and The Children’s Aid Society. Still other children were taken in by these organizations from schools or orphanages. Teachers at a child’s school contacted a faculty member at either The Children’s Aid Society or the New York Foundling Society in order to make arrangements for the child to be taken into the care of one of the two. When orphanages were overflowing, they began to send children that had been there for a while to these organizations to find a new family. The last way children could have been brought to the care of the two societies was to be recruited by an agent. Often times the children that were brought in by agents were those that were prostitutes or those that were living on the streets. In any case, all these children were those who probably could not have succeeded in their lives while living in New York.



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