{vintage pics & film}The orphan trains of the early 20th century had hopes of giving children a better life

Do you know anyone who had this experience?

From the 1850’s to the 1930’s, more than 250,000 orphans from New York City and Boston were sent westward.Orph-Train.photo1_

The train made many stops along the way as married couples picked out the boy or girl they wanted. Michigan was one of many middle western states to take in 12,500 children from 3 to 16 years of age.

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Michigan was one of many middle western states to take in 12,500 children from 3 to 16 years of age.

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.

Homeless children sleeping on train


The orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children.orphan_train_flyer

Two charitable institutions, the Children’s Aid Society (established by Charles Loring Brace) and later, the Catholic New York Foundling Hospital, endeavored to help these children.

Charles Loring Brace


Brace believed that institutional care stunted and destroyed children. In his view, only work, education and a strong family life could help them develop into self-reliant citizens. Brace knew that American pioneers could use help settling the American West, so he arranged to send the orphaned children to pioneer families.orphan in front of train

Sometimes 30 to 40 children rode on these orphan trains with two or three adults and initially the conditions on the trains were poor.orphan train

Children were encouraged to break away from their past completely. Siblings were usually separated.train with boys

When they arrived in a town, the children were usually put up on a stage-like podium for viewing and inspection. Often they would sing or dance to attract interest and the towns people checked their teeth and felt their muscles before deciding whether to take them home.orphan train2

Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,000 children rode the “Orphan Train” to new lives.

Orphans from the train


More information about the orphan trains can be found at the National Orphan Train Museum site


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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She cohost the Podcast: Alabama Grist Mill and developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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