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December 3, 2022
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The Orphan Train
Produced by: Annie Wu
"The Orphan Train" is an unnarrated documentary about one of the least known and yet most significant social experiments in American history. In September 1854, the first "orphan train" carried 46 homeless children from New York City to far off homes to become laborers in the pioneer West. It was the first step in what was to become the emigration of as many as 250,000 orphan children to new homes throughout the entire United States. Some children found kind homes and families, others were overworked and abused. Widely duplicated throughout its 75 year history, the original orphan train was the creation and life project of the now forgotten man who was to become the father of American child welfare policy. This documentary features interviews with surviving orphan train riders, as well as readings from historical newspapers, letters and journals, and is laced with classical and folk music.

Program Credits

The Orphan Train was produced by Annie Wu. Nat King Cole sings "Nature Boy", written by orphan train rider Eden Ahbez. Letters, diaries, and other historical documents were read by Kathleen Fagin, Linda Gagnon, Steve Lazarus, Kathryn Lindquist, and Jim Wilson. Special thanks to Alice and Victor Remmer at the Childrens Aid Society Archives.


The Orphan Trains: a PBS American Experience program
Learn more about the topic through this television documentary, peruse related books, and a check out a teacher's guide on how to use the program in an instructional setting.

Orphan Trains of Kansas
Personal stories, a historical timeline, photographs and newspaper accounts documenting the Orphan Trains that arrived in Kansas between 1867 and 1930, and placed some 5,000 children in Kansas homes.

The Children's Aid Society
The Children's Aid Society of New York is in its 151st year of assisting children and families in need. Orphan Train riders and their families may learn more about their personal history by contacting the Children's Aid Society Archives at 150 East 45th St., New York, NY 10017.

Eden Ahbez
Learn more about this famous Orphan Train rider who composed the song "Nature Boy

Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story
by: Andrea Warren 1998
A moving account of one orphan who found a warm and loving home, but was separated from his siblings until their reunion almost 60 years later.

We Rode the Orphan Trains
by: Andrea Warren 2004
In this sequel to Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, we meet nine men and women who reveal their childhood experiences as part of the largest children's migration in history.

Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed
by: Stephen O'Connor 2004
O'Connor, featured in the program, offers a powerful blend of history, biography, and adventure, while shedding light on the little-known episode in American history.

Radio Online
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Programs by Annie Wu

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