In 1848 Ireland was gripped by famine. Nearly a million people died of starvation. Desperate,a million more abandoned their homeland and immigrated to America. Many settled in Five Pointsan area of Lower Manhattan infamous for its squalorgang violence and disease. By the mid-nineteenth centuryan estimated 30000 orphaned and homeless children roamed New York City. They survived by resorting to petty crimeby begging and by selling newspapers for a nickel a piece. They slept in alleywaysin cellars and even sewers. For protectionthey joined the violent gangs of the Bowery Boysthe Dead Rabbits and the Roach Guards. In response to this crisisthe age of orphan asylums beganculminating in one of the most improbable and audacious episodes in American history. Called the Orphan Train Movementit endeavored to rescue these children lost to the streets and our institutionsby heroes who fought for their liberation.
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