New York Foundling Asylum Babies, 1905


from Arizona Images

“New York Foundling Asylum Babies, brought before the Territorial Supreme Court in Clifton, Arizona” (1905)

At the turn of the (last) century, New York was home to tens of thousands of orphans. Poor Gilded Age Gotham parents could give up their children to foundling hospitals and were expected to pay for room and board for their children. Once the parents inevitably ceased making payments, the “orphans” became wards of the state. The state was then free to do what they pleased to find these children homes- usually to Midwest farming communities where they were expected to work. Orphan trains placed out between 150,000 -250,000 runaway, homeless, and “orphaned” children to 47 states and Canada from 1854 to 1929 when the practice was finally banned.

“During the orphan train trip, children were accompanied by a placing agent. The trains stopped in scheduled locations. Children usually lined up in front of prospective takers on a platform or at a meeting hall. They were encouraged to look and act their best. Inspection sometimes involved poking and prodding; an attempt to ascertain their value as workers on farms or in local shops and businesses. Children that were not selected returned to the train to travel on to the another stop. “

These particular “asylum babies” were shipped out via train to Arizona territory to find loving homes in 1905.

There were no good old days.

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