(dis)placing out: Identity and Orphan Train Adoption 1857-1929

Coombs, Mary Kristen Taylor , Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia

From 1857 to 1929, more than 200,000 orphaned or surrendered children from New York were placed out--put on trains and sent to towns, often Midwestern to be “adopted.” The best known of the orphan-shipping agencies is the Children’s Aid Society of New York, which was then headed by bestselling author Reverend Charles Loring Brace, the most visible social reformer in this eugenics experiments. Brace’s methods perfected the commodification of children, collecting orphans from other orphanages (deemed adoptable), replacing their pasts with new clothes and names, sending them on trains, and auctioning off their potential labor in exchange for room and board with adoptive families.

This site is an exploration of identity and agency in this displacement practice through a series of visual/textual juxtapositions, navigated by the numbered sections.

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

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