With the massive influx of poor immigrants to New York in the mid-nineteenth century came an unprecedented number of homeless and orphaned children in need of care. Unsatisfied with the scant resources available to the abandoned children, a coalition of churchmen and social reformers gathered in 1853 to found the New York Children’s Aid Society. The first director was Congregationalist minister Charles Loring Brace. The society provided lodging and education in various crafts and trades to the children in its care. It later created “orphan trains” that sent children to live with new families in less crowded areas (see 1853 entry on companion list of Achievements in Economic and Social Prosperity). The society’s annual reports show steady financial support from many of New York City’s leading families—the Astors, Dodges, and Roosevelts all made regular and generous donations—but there was also a wide and faithful base of small-scale supporters who sustained the society’s work with gifts of money, clothing, supplies, and volunteer time.
New York Children’s Aid Society