The Orphan Trains Delivered Homeless Children to Rural Farmers

By Karen Harris
Group of foundlings to be sent on 'Orphan Trains' to the South and West. (Getty Images)

New York City in the mid-1800s had a real problem. There were too many homeless and orphaned children living in the streets. By some estimates, up to 30,000 kids without parents that roamed the city, begging for food, stealing, and loitering. Some of the children took odd jobs, like selling matches and newspapers, to earn money for food. For protection, groups of orphaned children banded together, forming gangs. Most people wanted to rid the city of its feral children epidemic, but there seemed to be no humane solution. That is, until Charles Loring Brace, founder of the Children’s Aid Society, proposed shipping the orphans to America’s farms.