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The New-York Historical Society will be closed Tuesday, January 27 and will reopen Wednesday, January 28. For details, please visit our calendar.

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Orphan Train Riders (born approximately 1890)

Here families engage in a pivotal moment in the lives of poor, young, New York orphans who were transported from East Coast cities to new lives, mostly in rural America, beginning in the mid-1800s. Considered the nation’s first foster care program, the orphan train relocated many thousands of children over its seventy-five-year history.

The results were mixed. For some, the story ended happily, but others were treated as little more than servants. Families can take a seat on a train and listen to the turn-of-the-century children as they start off on their new lives. On the “nation” side, families use a large U.S. map interactive to follow the lives of several children who rode the orphan train. In the process, they will see something of what America was like, far from the crowded neighborhoods of New York.


Creative: Tronvig Group