Nineteenth-Century Adoption Advertisements (1856)

Death rates among nineteenth-century adults were higher than we’re used to: one child I’ve researched lost both parents before she was 14; another lost his mother and two stepmothers before he reached adulthood. Advertisements weren’t unusual, though they may not be all they appear: occasionally, stories were concocted to make an illegitimate child more attractive to potential parents. These appeared on the front page (with the other “classified ads”) of the New York Daily Tribune on January 14, 1856.

adoption ads

WHO WANTS A LITTLE BOY?—A Widower, with six children, has a LITTLE BOY, 8 years old, that he would like some respectable person to ADOPT. Inquire of Mrs. MITCHELL, No. 471 Houston-st., corner of the Bowery.


WANTED—To ADOPT a lovely and interesting little female INFANT, five months old. The mother is left a widow, and not able to support it. Apply at the Employment Society, No. 13 Bible House, for a week. Ask for Catharine.

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