This is the title of the mural in my town of Dowagiac, Michigan which I have been occasionally posting about all summer. It is now complete, and was officially dedicated to the city and accepted by the Mayor last Saturday. Here’s a wide shot of it to give you an idea of the size–it covers a wall below the parking lot of the post office.
I put together a little movie I shot as I walked along the length of it, with some subtitles to explain the illustrations. Feel free to pause the movie at any time, as it’s a little hectic trying to read and look at the images at the same time.
Here’s the story as detailed in the brochures distributed at the dedication:
In the mid-1800’s, homeless, orphaned children roamed the streets of New York City. In 1853, Charles Loring Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society to care for the children. Brace came up with an idea to send the children west on trains to new families (Michigan, at that time, was part of the western U.S.). The Children’s Aid Society sent the first train of 46 children west in September 1854 with one destination–Dowagiac, Michigan.
After an arduous journey of two train and two boat rides (including one across Lake Erie), the children arrived safely in Dowagiac. Over the course of several days, 37 of the children were taken in by local families. This experiment led to 75 years of Orphan Trains placing out 250,000 children across the continental United States. Not all children had positive experiences, but many children got a new start on life.
“Starting a New Life” honors the first trip to Dowagiac and the subsequent 75 years of Orphan Train journeys.
“Starting a New Life” is made possible in part by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.