Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

D02, D63, J13, J43

Key Words

Agriculture, Aid Societies, Orphan Trains, Placing-Out, Vagrant Children


This inquiry seeks to convince the reader that motivations of 19th century aid societies were not necessarily rooted in the welfare of vagrant children, but rather in the goals of bolstering American agriculture and creating a new generation of farmers out of children that likely would have otherwise proved a direct social and economic burden. While apprenticeships have a long history in the United States, the joining of apprenticeships and indentured labor formed a 19th century system of placing children out into rural homes as contracted workers. This system, as social movement from above, offered economic benefits to farmers and the agricultural industry, while it placed participating children at a disadvantage. The management of the system—regarding the welfare and care of the children—has been found to have been lacking, generating a range of problems, including the fragmentation of family members, with some only recently rediscovering their family connections in the 21st century.


© 2022 Josephine Cannistra

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