While doing research for my poem, Sleeping on the Train, I discovered another gap in my education--The Orphan Trains. Between 1854 and 1929, up to 200,000 children were placed into homes across 45 states, Canada, and Mexico. Two organizations created what we now call 'The Orphan Trains' where anywhere from 10 to 30 children at a time were taken from large Eastern cities to live with families in rural areas.
A confluence of events led to a large number of homeless or destitute people in large U.S. cities like New York and Boston. A series of economic recessions and depressions in the early 1800s, changes to factory automation reducing the number of workers and apprentices needed, and a rapid influx of immigrants beginning in the 1830s vying for already scarce jobs all put a strain on existing public and private charities. Organizations like The Children's Aid Society and The New York Foundling Hospital took in children who were either abandoned by parents, found as vagrants, or were ordered by a magistrate to be placed with the organizations.
Gail Wawrzyniak is a North Carolina writer bringing together her love of art, history and writing.