They were part of westward migration, Many migrants were able to get to the immigrant ports but lacked the money to migrate westward where the Feds had free homestead land waiting. Living conditions were appalling. Families lived in abandoned buildings, under loading docks, in empty packing boxes, anywhere to get out of the East Coast’s bitterly cold winters.
Employment was denied to immigrants to drive them west. Or they were paid such low wages that it amounted to slave labor. All that did was make things worse.
To feed their families, desperate parents “sent their children out” to steal, rob, sell their bodies, work in sweatshops, anything to bring home pennies and nickels which were used to feed babies too young to “send out.”
Abuse, incest, abandonment, all the abuses of children that come with destitution were endemic.
A few parents gave their children to agencies who sent them west to be auctioned off into slavery, convinced by Federal propaganda that they were “better off there than being ‘sent out.’”
Rather than finance family travel, the Feds established kidnap agencies to collect children until a carload could be sent west on “Orphan Trains,” to be picked over at trackside by migrants looking for cheap labor. Frying pan to the fire!
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children snatched children off streets and playgrounds, out of homes, schools and stores, anywhere they could be found a few feet away from their parents. Within minutes, victims were taken to one of three transport agencies. The system was “justified” by massive Federal propaganda that touted immigrant parents as “child abusers.”
(Yes, Virginia, I see the resemblance to modern massive falsification of child abuse, neglect and molestation accusations that are completely without validity and serve only to “justify” kidnapping children so they can be sold into adoption/slavery.)
Children’s Home Society was a Protestant agency that sent more children than any other agency to Protestants in the West.
New York Foundling Hospital was a Catholic agency that sent children to Catholics in the Desert Southwest, where Mexico was trying to block U.S. expansion. (See citation below for litigation that arose from that activity.)
Juvenile Asylum was government controlled. They couldn’t have cared less where the kids went as long as they went west. They handled primarily babies.
The Orphan Trains brought the U.S. close to revolution. Older children ran away home. Mobs attacked police and SPCC agents. In the West, Orphan Train and other victims became cannon fodder for a revolution that came close to splitting the U.S. into five nations. (See the Standing Bear cite below, the turning point.)
Orphan Train documentation is crawling with propaganda lies, most of them disinformation disseminated in a futile attempt to sucker the public into thinking they were done “in the child’s best interests.” Most blatant of all were:
The Jacob Riis photos are to this day hyped as “photos of starving street kids sleeping on grates to keep warm in New York City’s bitter cold winters.” Take a good look at those photos. Those kids are clean, neatly dressed, hair cut and combed and far from malnourished. Those pics were posed, period! There was no other way he could have taken them. For one thing, true street kids would have stolen his camera, robbed him of whatever money he had in his pockets and stripped him of his clothes to keep themselves warm.
This is equally true of every source of the time, whether sanitized government records, agency records, police records or family stories. With one exception that stands out like the beacon on a lighthouse.
The New York Times, from Day One to 1925 is the only source that I consider reliable and accurate for the Orphan Trains.
The reason is a peculiarity that I have never seen in any documentary source before or since. My reasoning is so heavily biased in their favor that I owe it to the reader to describe it.
Go to the original handwritten index and find the articles about a Catholic maid in Rome who stole her Jewish employer’s baby boy and gave him to the Papal Guards. There was a world wide furor. The Times was almost rabid in their condemnation of the Pope’s refusal to return the baby. The Pope ignored the world, eventually acknowledging the existence of intense world wide hostility with a terse statement that “We gotta save that baby from Satan!”
I probably should have included the episode in the master file that underlies this biblio, but I didn’t. Maybe some day I will.
The Times settled into heavy bias against snatching babies from natural parents. That conflicted with their equally strong support of Conquest of the West. It created editorial schizophrenia that resulted in coverage of the Trains that laid out for all to see the good, the bad and the ugly of the Trains, warts and all. That is the kind of data I look for in any kind of research, especially into the social and political sciences. The Times is the only place where I ever found it in one source.
The articles are indexed under “Children.” The phrase “Orphan Trains” does not appear in any source of the time. The time of it’s appearance in American language is uncertain. In any event, the change in language hampered my research until I discovered the correlation. Others are advised to use the same indexing approach.
“Rescuing thousands of starving children” is a classic example of lying when the truth would have served better. Even rabidly pro-Train writers on the Times staff found no evidence of “starving children.” What they did find was thousands of children who fed themselves and their families with every conceivable kind of crime, including lethal violence. The Times reported children kidnapped by SPCC from incestuous drunks, pimps, Fagins (Adults who used kids to commit crime, taking part of the profits.) and every other kind of child abuse one could think of. I believe those kids did in fact benefit from being kidnapped and sent west to be sold into slavery.
One thing I hear but have never confirmed is judges telling juvenile criminals “Go west or go to jail — your choice you little SOB!” The trend of the stories makes me think that it wasn’t done the first time a kid got busted for a minor offense. Rather, it was done only to the worst of the worst. This would be a good research project for some student who has access to New York City court archives.
The anti-Train faction on the Times staff reported kids taken from parents’ homes and front steps, out of yards and off the streets while on their way to the store, anyplace SPCC could find them in a vulnerable situation.
The Times reported mobs attacking SPCC agents and police, rescuing children and returning them to parents. There was one parental suicide. One infuriated mother walked into an agency’s child warehouse and so cowed the adults that they let her take her child home. The picture is one of extreme public hostility towards Train snatches. There were several anti-Train organizations.
The dichotomy in Times philosophy surfaced repeatedly in editorials. There is one back-to-back pair where the first supported Kansas’ complaints of “diseased, violent Train kids.” Next day, another editorial appeared saying “Kids OK. Shut up and take ‘em!”
Westchester Temporary Home for Destitute Children did not sent children west. Instead, they kept the children until parents could afford to reclaim them. They also “straightened out” uncontrollable children. Their refusal to send children west incurred the wrath of SPCC, the Times and other Train supporters. They filed a criminal child abuse complaint against the Home’s director. The ensuing trial had strong similarities to McMartin. Eventual vindication became the first domino in the collapse of the Orphan Train system. The first step was disbanding SPCC and reorganizing it into the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Purists will object to my failure to include specific citations. There are two reasons. First, the total biblio would be twice the length of this one. (It’s a huge part of my original research folder.) Second, I hope to encourage researchers to duplicate my work. There are side alleys galore that lead to information that I did not include, but which would make projects in their own right.
There are auxiliary sources that suggest other lines of research.
There was a dog-eat-dog fight between Catholics and Protestants over control of the West. The Protestants wanted independence from Europe. The Catholics wanted the Desert Southwest returned to Mexico.
That culminated in the Catholics sending kidnapped children to Mexicans in the Desert Southwest. But they did not count on Protestant mobs mass kidnapping the children back and giving them to Protestants who were migrating into the same area.
New York Foundling Hospital v Gatti: U.S. Reports, 203 US 429 (1906.) Technically, This ruling said that the Federal courts had no jurisdiction to hear child custody cases. In reality, it upheld a Protestant mob snatching children placed with Mexicans in Arizona to thwart U.S. expansion into the area.
Norfolk, Nebr News Flyer, July 15, 1987, P 2. — See also Orphan Train Heritage Society, Rt 4, Box 565, Springdale Arkansas 72764. Their newsletter. The children’s view of the Orphan Trains. The first is an interview with a now elderly Orphan Train child. There is a reservoir of such interviews and articles if a researcher is willing to spend the time to find them. The trend is towards portrayal of slavery and abuse. The second is an organization that collects the stories of Orphan Train children. They work for reunions.
Much of the personal history of the Train children is already lost to death. The rest will follow unless somebody picks up their stories.
Hostility in recipient states. Orphan Train Heritage Society (ibid) has information. A researcher could easily find a law library with a good archive section and go through early state statutes. Several states celebrated their newly acquired statehood by enacting statutes prohibiting “placing out” Train children inside their borders.
Buckskin and Blanket Days Autobiography of Thomas Henry Tibbles (University of Nebraska Press, 1957 reprint.)
He was stolen from his widowed mother at about age 10 by an Ohio Sheriff and sold to a neighbor for Indenture. He promptly ran away and went west to live with the Indians.
He eventually became a major national activist, championing Indian Rights, fighting lies used to con people west, was Vice Presidential Candidate for the Populist Party and other activity. His most important activity was editor/writer/researcher for the Omaha Herald and was the prime mover in the Standing Bear litigation.
Tibbles was the leader of a group of people who included at least two Army Generals, Crook and Miles, Omaha Indian Chief Iron Eye — whose daughter, Bright Eyes, later married Tibbles — and at least one other in the Desert Southwest. I make out that they were within days of open military revolt with the objective of splitting the nation into five parts: The original 13 Colonies. The Deep South, basically the Confederacy. The Louisiana Purchase would become a separate nation under the leadership of Tibbles, Judge Dundy and Iron Eye. The Pacific Northwest would join Canada under Miles’ leadership. The Desert Southwest would rejoin Mexico under unknown leadership.
Tibbles is an excellent example of the level of hatred that is generated among child victims of whatever form of “adoption” takes them from their families and drives them into lifetimes of revolt against the authorities who did it.
Standing Bear et al v Crook: Federal District Court, Omaha, Nebraska. Case No 136 E. Filed April 8, 1879. Heard by Judge Elmer S Dundy May 12, 1879
Habeas Corpus, claiming illegal arrest of Standing Bear and others by U.S. Army
Culminated in freeing the Ponca party in a ruling that had landmark effects.
The records are no longer available from the Federal Archives in Kansas City. I have photocopies of the original paperwork, obtained from the Clerk of the Federal District Court in Omaha. I consider it a rare document whose importance is overlooked by historians and researchers.
The importance of this litigation is that prior to it Indians were legally dangerous wild animals. They were rounded up and confined to “reservations” to “preserve the species.” In those days, Indian Reservations bore a striking resemblance to modern zoos, used to save dangerous wild animals from extinction.
This litigation elevated Indian legal status from wild animal to human, entitled to the same legal and constitutional protections as Whites. In the purely legal sense, it is a lower court ruling, not entitled to precedent status. But Washington was afraid to appeal it because they knew doggone well it would be upheld all the way to the Supreme Court. It was a turnover event that reached far beyond Indian Rights to bring about major changes that reverberate even yet.
I spent several days reading media coverage of the time. The W Dale Clark Library in downtown Omaha has microfilms of two newspapers, the Omaha Bee and the Omaha Herald. Their views were so strongly opposed that they gave me the editorial dichotomy I look for when I research events of that importance. In essence, the Bee took the stand that Indians were pests to be exterminated while the Herald took the stand that Indians were martyrs to White greed, violence and bigotry.
There is one reference to a Congressional speech that talked about “a second Civil War.” There is much to support the concept.
Union Pacific got wind of it and realized that they would be split into at least three railroads. They sent in their top attorney, Andrew J Poppleton, who was attorney of record for Standing Bear in the litigation. Poppleton was assisted by attorney Jno L Webster, who was a Nebraska State Representative.
To someone like me, who has been in just such litigation, the paperwork reeks of sandbagging Washington. Judge Dundy “went bear hunting” just long enough to let Poppleton get the paperwork in order but not long enough for Washington to yank the case out from under him. General Crook put the Army under the jurisdiction of a local civilian court, which to this day has no legal standing. (I am not talking about individuals in the Army. The Army itself was the true defendant in this case.) General Crook told the world that the Poncas were “too sick to move” to keep them in Omaha so the Army couldn’t move them out of the Court’s jurisdiction. The witness who certified the Indians’ “X” signatures was one of Crook’s officers. It goes on and on like that.
This litigation was followed by a series of events that brought an end to the horrendous abuses of “Conquest of the West.” The new York Times changed it’s editorial stand from supporting the Orphan Trains to hostility. A few years later, the Westchester Home case toppled the Trains from their pinnacle of power. Union Pacific suckered a bunch of Eastern workers west with promises of non-existent jobs. Some infuriated workers, under the leadership of a close friend of Crook’s, former General Kelly, took over trains at gunpoint and went home, while others marched home, taking food and other supplies by force of arms as they went. Union Pacific and the Army were uncharacteristically meek and mild and stayed out of the way of the “Industrial Armies.” Hype that ignored harsh living conditions in the west suddenly became more realistic. Standing Bear, Tibbles and Bright Eyes did lecture tours stumping for Indian rights and more humane treatment of Native Americans. There was a marked change in Indian School policies and mass kidnaping Indian children was markedly reduced, driving what was left underground, where it continues even today.
Standing Bear exerted a profound influence that reduced the official child abuse called “Orphan Trains.” The influence was strong enough to force an Orwellian double-speak name change to “adoption.”
Tibbles is a good indication of the level of anger that is generated among mass kidnap victims and sublimated into revolutionary activity. There are others, such as serial killer Ted Bundy. This would make a good line of research for somebody developing a thesis.
My thanks to Leonard Henderson for this “history lesson.” http://familyrightsassociation.com/departments/kids/orphan_trains/orphan_trains.html
saved from http://incolor.inebraska.com/eaustin/adopt10.html