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RG1649.AM:  Albert James Sommer, 1910-1990

Papers:  ca. 1912-1990

Butte, Osmond, and Norfolk, Neb.:  Orphan train rider; Veterans’ Service Officer

Size:  0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


Jenis Valda Glickardus was born in New York City in November 1910. Sometime before the age of two, he was admitted to the New York Foundling Hospital and given the name James. In the early autumn of 1912, James became one of the thousands of orphans who traveled west on “orphan trains” as part of the “placing out” program of the Hospital. Wearing a numbered cloth arm band and identification tag, James was met and taken to the Boyd County, Nebraska home of foster parents Henry and Mary Sommer, who gave him the name Albert James Sommer. Albert attended rural schools in Boyd County, and three years of parochial school in Butte, Nebraska. In 1930, the Sommers formally adopted Albert. From October of 1928 to January of 1943, he lived in Osmond, Nebraska. He married the former Dorothy Bolender in 1940. He served in World War II with the 1st Infantry Division in Europe, and following his honorable discharge in 1946, moved to Norfolk, Nebraska, where he worked as the Veterans’ Service Officer for Madison County. He became a member and past president of the Nebraska group of former members of the New York Foundling Hospital.


This collection consists of papers arranged in six series: 1) Correspondence, ca. 1912-1990; 2) School documents, 1917-1925; 3) Orphan train reunions, 1962-1989; 4) New York Foundling Hospital ca. 1956-1985; 5) Printed materials, 1962-1990; and 6) Miscellaneous.

Series 1 contains letters dated ca. 1912-1941 concerning Albert’s birth, orphan experience, and adoption. Several important documents can be found as inserts in letters from 1939 to 1941, when Albert wrote to New York in search of his baptismal record and birth certificate. He kept his court adoption papers with this series of letters, though they do not form part of the correspondence. Also of interest in this series are letters from the 1982 fourth grade class of Northern Hills School thanking Albert for visiting their class to talk about his orphan train experience. Other correspondence may be found throughout the collection, and has been kept with the materials to which it pertains.

Series 2, School Documents, includes report cards, programs, a declamatory speech and ribbon, and a diploma.

Series 3, Orphan Train Reunions, consists of correspondence, mailing lists, photographs, and guest books from reunions of orphan train riders.

The New York Foundling Hospital materials of Series 4 include several histories of the hospital and a small amount of correspondence.

Clippings, newsletters, feature articles, and one student theme, collected by Sommer and featuring orphan train history or orphan train reunions, form the bulk of Series 5, Printed Materials. A few clippings concern a movie, filmed in Grand Island Nebraska, about the orphan trains. Some items include cover letters. The last series consists of one folder of miscellaneous material.


Series 1 – Correspondence, ca. 1912-1990

Box 1


  1. ca. 1912-1941

  2. 1964, 1984-1990

  3. Northern Hills 4th Grade, 1982

Series 2 – School Documents, 1917-1925

  1. 1917-1924

  2. Declamatory contest, 1925

Series 3 – Orphan Train Reunions, 1962-1989

  1. Correspondence, 1984-1989, n.d.

  2. Mailing lists

  3. Guest books, 1975

  4. Photographs, 1962, 1969, 1973

Series 4 – New York Foundling Hospital, ca. 1956-1985

  1. New York Foundling Hospital, ca. 1956-1985

  2. New York Foundling Hospital, ca. 1956-1985

Series 5 – Printed Materials, 1962-1990

  1. Orphan train clippings, 1962-1990

  2. Orphan train feature articles, 1980-1988

  3. Student theme, “Orphan Trains,” 1990

Series 6 – Miscellaneous

  1. Miscellaneous



Hanna (Wyo.) — History

New York Foundling Hospital (New York, N.Y.)

Orphans — Nebraska

Orphan Trains — Nebraska

Sommer, Albert James, 1910-1990

Webster County (Neb.) — History


05-18-2007   Revised TMM/tmm