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The term orphan trains refers to the historical practice of sending poor street children from New York City (NYC) on trains bound for the West to live with families on rural farms. The practice began in 1854, on behest of an organization called the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), and ended in 1929. During this 76-year period, more than 250,000 children were estimated to have been sent West. This entry offers a historical overview of the context surrounding the orphan train movement and the historical precursors that led to the unique practice. This entry also highlights the advantages and problems associated with this chapter in U.S. history.

Child-Saving Movements

In 1853, at a time when the streets of NYC teemed with homeless orphans and impoverished children, Charles Loring ...

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