When Kids Ran the World: A Forgotten History of the Junior Republic Movement

Jennifer S. Light:

Travelers should be sure to visit the curious community in Freeville, New York, where boys and girls were in charge, wrote Baedeker’s turn-of-the-20th-century guide to the United States. This “miniature republic modelled on the government of the United States” was well worth a detour to observe the “legislature, court-house, jail, school, church and public library” staffed by citizens aged 14 to 21, most of them immigrants or impoverished youth.

Of course, these young Americans were not actual members of the civil service, but their adultlike activities were exceedingly realistic nonetheless. They “elect their rulers, make and enforce laws, and carry on business just as adults do in the greater world,” author James Muirhead marveled.