The Orphan Train Denounced as a White Slave Trade in Children February 1869


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jgoodguy

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#24
Legacy of the program
Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 American children traveled west by rail in search of new homes.[2]
The Children's Aid Society rated its transplanted wards successful if they grew into "creditable members of society," and frequent reports documented the success stories. A 1910 survey concluded that 87 percent of the children sent to country homes had "done well," while 8 percent had returned to New York and the other 5 percent had either died, disappeared or gotten arrested.[6]
Brace's notion that children are better cared for by families than in institutions is the most basic tenet of present-day foster care.[4]
 

jgoodguy

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#25
"Trains Ferried Waifs To New Lives On The Prairie". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 2016-11-28.

Noah Lawyer is 86 and his arthritic hips force him to navigate on crutches, but there is nothing feeble about him. He has small, hard eyes, a bull neck and the pile-driver grip of a man who has shoveled coal on steam locomotives and wrestled bears in a Wild West show. His senses are sharp and his memory is strong and free of sentimentality. Lawyer was and is a tough hombre. He is a survivor​
Some of the transplanted children took root in the prairie and some didn't. Many were treated well and eventually adopted; others were shuttled from one family to another; some were abused and forced to work like oxen. In effect it was an indentured system without strings: The child (through the agency) or the foster parents could end the arrangement if they chose.​
By today's standards the orphan trains and the traumatic, auctionlike lineups at journey's end seem callous and even barbaric. But in fairness they should be judged in the context of a time when the law treated 10-year-olds as adults and boys sweated beside their fathers in coal mines. In its own day the placing-out program, though controversial, was generally accepted and applauded as a reasonable solution to a painful dilemma. Like many orphan- train veterans, Lawyer is ambivalent about his experience. He feels grateful that he was rescued from a scuffling, hand-to-mouth existence in Middleburg, N.Y., but resentful that his foster family treated him more like a hired hand than a son.
 

Pat Young

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#26
"Trains Ferried Waifs To New Lives On The Prairie". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 2016-11-28.

Noah Lawyer is 86 and his arthritic hips force him to navigate on crutches, but there is nothing feeble about him. He has small, hard eyes, a bull neck and the pile-driver grip of a man who has shoveled coal on steam locomotives and wrestled bears in a Wild West show. His senses are sharp and his memory is strong and free of sentimentality. Lawyer was and is a tough hombre. He is a survivor​
Some of the transplanted children took root in the prairie and some didn't. Many were treated well and eventually adopted; others were shuttled from one family to another; some were abused and forced to work like oxen. In effect it was an indentured system without strings: The child (through the agency) or the foster parents could end the arrangement if they chose.​
By today's standards the orphan trains and the traumatic, auctionlike lineups at journey's end seem callous and even barbaric. But in fairness they should be judged in the context of a time when the law treated 10-year-olds as adults and boys sweated beside their fathers in coal mines. In its own day the placing-out program, though controversial, was generally accepted and applauded as a reasonable solution to a painful dilemma. Like many orphan- train veterans, Lawyer is ambivalent about his experience. He feels grateful that he was rescued from a scuffling, hand-to-mouth existence in Middleburg, N.Y., but resentful that his foster family treated him more like a hired hand than a son.
While there have been some scholarly articles on the trains, much has focused on the experience in the 20th Century. How much those 20th Century experiences are similar to those of children in the 1860s is questionable.

There are almost no records surviving, or even kept, of those on the 19th Century and those children may have had considerably worse treatment than those of a later era.

Perhaps now with so many records being digitalized further research can be done.
 
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#28
I would hazard a guess, that very few of the children would have, if asked as older adults, chosen to stay in slums and poverty. Those unhappy with their lives as older adults would naturally wonder if they could have led a more satisfying life in other circumstances. But many would reflect with gratitude that someone intervened, however imperfectly, and changed their fortunes. Anecdotes are found in every family to support any conceivable outcome, positive or terrible, for the post-CW period of expansion and settlement of the American West.
 

Pat Young

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#29
I would hazard a guess, that very few of the children would have, if asked as older adults, chosen to stay in slums and poverty. Those unhappy with their lives as older adults would naturally wonder if they could have led a more satisfying life in other circumstances. But many would reflect with gratitude that someone intervened, however imperfectly, and changed their fortunes. Anecdotes are found in every family to support any conceivable outcome, positive or terrible, for the post-CW period of expansion and settlement of the American West.
Perhaps. Or perhaps they would have preferred to stay within their own communities rather than be consigned to rural poverty among strangers.
 

uaskme

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#30
Why send them West where Labor was in short supply? Westeners, CA made it easy for White families to make Indian and Black children Wards of White Parents. It was though that blacks or natives were such a degraded race, a white family would be better than any black or negro family. They could make the children Christian and teach them how to be civilized. Also they were used as domestic laborers. House cleaned, baby sat, etc. I wouldn’t suspect racial views of the Irish or Catholic would not of been much different.
 
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#31
There were as many as 10,000 homeless children in the streets of New York in the 1850s. This is a tragic story overall, but there were some for whom it worked out well. Hardly all.

 
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#32
The New York Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register had been established as a small weekly paper carrying news of the Catholic diocese of New York. By the 1860s it was under private control and allied with Fernando Wood's Mozart Hall political machine. While it continued to focus on issues of interest to Catholic New Yorkers, it also contained much that reflected its Peace Democrat (Copperhead) orientation.

In the 1850s, the New York Children's Aid Society started the Orphan Trains. As an element in the Protestant evangelicization effort in New York City, the society would send children alleged to be orphans on the trains to parts of the Midwest to be adopted at meetings held in towns along the train routes. The Society claimed that the purpose was to alleviate the suffering of the 30,000 orphaned and abandoned children of the city. Since most of the children were Irish Catholic, and since the children were routinely baptized into various Protestant denomination, many Irish New Yorkers saw the Orphan Trains as a part of a larger cultural conflict waged against the immigrants. The fact that the children were often displayed at train stations and Protestant churches to prospective adoptive parents gave the transactions an air of the slave market to its critics. Subsequent research indicates that while some children found good loving homes, others became unpaid labor on farms in the Midwest.

Here is a sharply negative account from a Catholic priest of the day the Orphan Train arrived:

New-York Freeman's Journal and Catholic Register
Saturday, Feb 13, 1869
New York, NY
Page: 1
View attachment 226118
My recollection is that a British producer made a movie about Catholic nuns in Ireland doing something similar with the babies of unmarried women during the 20th century. One of the boys sold into adoption ended up working for President Reagan. Thus Jonathan Swift and his modest proposal was only slightly satirical.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#33
Comprehensive mistreatment of children seems excusatory. Just because children were forced into mines and factories by uber wealthy owners ( whose children were home being raised in comfort ) doesn't mean it wasn't objected to. It was, vociferously. May have been considered just fine for employers to do it, it was never considered quite normal. Dickens, for one, was a social reformer poking large holes in that theory. That we had to be shamed into things like age of consent ( which was 10 ) being raised, working age being instituted ( not until the 1930's for Heaven's sake ) and finally educating a few is an abysmal part of our history. The shamers were there however. It isn't off thread. I'm sorry but we can view these orphan trains through 2019 eyes.

Social reformers published a plethora of anti-child labor material. This shocking image is one of dozens from an expose on mining in the UK. Child pulling a cart through a tunnel too small for an adult. Wearing a harness.
children uk girl miner crop.jpg



Heck, mandatory attendance in public schools was instituted to get all those unsightly poor kids off the streets. ( can source that ). We, as a society, had a good idea on how disposable were our children BUT also that it was abhorrent. But who wants to do something about it.

Large families with a ton of kids whose early job was to help on the farm were still in a family- their family. Children remain vulnerable in 2019, no rights or voice whatsoever. Have quite a long way to go despite the lip service on how precious they are.
 

Pat Young

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#34
Comprehensive mistreatment of children seems excusatory. Just because children were forced into mines and factories by uber wealthy owners ( whose children were home being raised in comfort ) doesn't mean it wasn't objected to. It was, vociferously. May have been considered just fine for employers to do it, it was never considered quite normal. Dickens, for one, was a social reformer poking large holes in that theory. That we had to be shamed into things like age of consent ( which was 10 ) being raised, working age being instituted ( not until the 1930's for Heaven's sake ) and finally educating a few is an abysmal part of our history. The shamers were there however. It isn't off thread. I'm sorry but we can view these orphan trains through 2019 eyes.

Social reformers published a plethora of anti-child labor material. This shocking image is one of dozens from an expose on mining in the UK. Child pulling a cart through a tunnel too small for an adult. Wearing a harness.
View attachment 226316


Heck, mandatory attendance in public schools was instituted to get all those unsightly poor kids off the streets. ( can source that ). We, as a society, had a good idea on how disposable were our children BUT also that it was abhorrent. But who wants to do something about it.

Large families with a ton of kids whose early job was to help on the farm were still in a family- their family. Children remain vulnerable in 2019, no rights or voice whatsoever. Have quite a long way to go despite the lip service on how precious they are.
I simply can't accept that everyone just viewed their kids as free labor. I have seen too many letters from soldiers to their wives after children died to allow me to believe that.
 
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#35
https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/population/1860a-02.pdf?#
See page xli et seq. The cities were unhealthy, or death traps, for the urban poor. Although farm life was not the pathway to riches, the odds of living to age 20 were better on the frontier.
Slaves and the urban poor faced similar risks based on poor nutrition, over work and unhygenic exposures. Life in the middle of 19th century was generally not easy so these orphan trains might be evaluated in that context.
Some people did view children as a source of unpaid labor, but most people had a general sense that children were a positive good and a sign of a family's value to the community.
 
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#36
I'd submit again, that we are ill-served to judge too closely the actions and motives of our forebearers by todays lights. While anecdotal at best, I come from poor white Yankee stock that migrated to the west at the turn of the century. None of my greatgrandparent's reminiscence ever sounded bitter or resentful. But hard times and few opportunities left even the most loving parents with few options. Step-children were more common than we would think, due more to the risks of childbirth than fickle marriages.
 

USS ALASKA

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#37
Unfortunately, this is not unique. Canada, Ireland, Australia have similar stories of woe, and some of them in the recent past...the older I get, the more I love my parents...
232

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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Pat Young

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#38
I'd submit again, that we are ill-served to judge too closely the actions and motives of our forebearers by todays lights. While anecdotal at best, I come from poor white Yankee stock that migrated to the west at the turn of the century. None of my greatgrandparent's reminiscence ever sounded bitter or resentful. But hard times and few opportunities left even the most loving parents with few options. Step-children were more common than we would think, due more to the risks of childbirth than fickle marriages.
Just to be clear, the person who was doing the judging was writing in the 1860s.
 



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