In 1848 famine gripped Ireland. Nearly a million people would die of starvation and typhoid fever. A million more Irish would abandon their homeland and come to America. Many settled in the area of Lower Manhattan called Five Points, infamous for its squalor, gang violence and disease.
By the end of the Civil War, an estimated 30,000 homeless children roamed the streets of New York. They slept in alleyways, under bridges, in packing boxes and even in sewers. They survived by resorting to petty crime, prostitution, and by selling newspapers for a penny a piece.
In response to this crisis, the age of orphan asylums began, culminating in one of the most improbably and audacious episodes in American history. Called the Orphan Train Movement, it endeavored to save these children lost to the streets by heroes who fought for their liberation.
This is their story…