That's History

Missing but Never Forgotten

Wednesday, 5/9/12

In the late 19th century, 4-year-old Charley Ross's abduction from the streets of Philadelphia became the first nationwide missing children case. Recently reopened after 32 years was the case of Etan Patz.  Although both Etan and Charley were never found, they helped to create new methods and procedures regarding missing children.

That's History explores the issue of missing children cases and how they led to social change. The Historical Society’s collections include more than 21 million items. Please visit the library at 1300 Locust Street or search our collections online.


Picture of Washington Lane where Charley Ross was abducted


Poster offering a reward for the recovery of Charley Ross and the arrest and conviction of his abductors

Files & Links


Charley Ross might be my great great grandfather.

My grandmother is 91 and told me her grandfather remembered being kidnapped and later dropped off at an orphanage, where he grew up and took the last name "Johnson". He told her his story and how he knew he was Charley Ross. One day, he left to go talk to the Rosses and came back with a huge sum of money, which they all believed was hush money for some reason. I'd like to find out the truth for my grandmother. I am curious as well to know the truth. We want to know if there are other descendants from the Ross family who could help us out. I'd like to get to the bottom of this for my grandmother before she passes away.

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