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Eagle and Phoenix Mill. "Dinner-toters" waiting for the gate to open.  ... Location: Columbus, Georgia (LOC)

Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Va. Coal mine. $.75 a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come ... (LOC) The "Manly art of self-defense" Newsboys' Protective Association.  Location: Cincinnati, Ohio. (LOC) Marie Costa, Basket Seller, 605 Elm St., Sixth St. Market, Cincinnati. 9 P.M. Had been there since 10 A.M. Sister and friend help her.  Location: Cincinnati, Ohio. (LOC) Glass works. Midnight.  Location: Indiana. (LOC) A Little "Shaver," Indianapolis Newsboy, 41 inches high. Said he was 6 years old. Aug., 1908. Wit., E. N. Clopper.  Location: Indianapolis, Indiana. (LOC) Lunch Time, Economy Glass Works, Morgantown, W. Va. Plenty more like this, inside.  Location: Morgantown, West Virginia. (LOC) Tenjeta Calone, Philadelphia, 10 years old. Been picking cranberries 4 years. White's Bog, Browns Mills, N.J.  ... (LOC) Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company. Said fifteen years old. Exposed to Red Light dangers.  Location: Waco, Texas. (LOC) Albernesi Family, 126 W. Eagle St. Left to right: Frank Albernesi, 5 years old. Libori Albernesi, 15 years old, Joseph Albernesi, 13 years old. Family goes to country in summer to pick fruit.  Location: Buffalo, New York (State) (LOC) Charlie Foster has a steady job in the Merrimack Mills. School Record says he is now ten years old. His father told me that he could not read, and still he is putting him into the mill. See Hine report.  Location: Huntsville, Alabama. (LOC) Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters a day at Dunbar. Tends the baby when not working ... Location: Dunbar, Louisiana (LOC) Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48 inches high, helps sister in Elk Mills. Her sister (in photo) said, "Yes, she he'ps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at six this mornin'."  ... Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee (LOC) Newsie, "flipping cars".  Location: Boston, Massachusetts. (LOC) Boys picking over garbage on "the Dumps." Boston. See 906-907.  Location: Boston, Massachusetts. (LOC) Pin boys in Les Miserables Alleys ... Location: Lowell, Massachusetts (LOC) 2 newsgirls.  Location: Wilmington, Delaware. (LOC) Young Cigarmakers in Englahardt & Co., Tampa, Fla. ... (LOC) Eagle and Phoenix Mill. "Dinner-toters" waiting for the gate to open.  ... Location: Columbus, Georgia (LOC) Manuel, the young shrimp-picker, five years old, and a mountain of child-labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. Dunbar, Lopez, Dukate Company.  Location: Biloxi, Mississippi. (LOC) 11:30 A.M. Jennie Rizzandi, 9 year old girl, helping mother and father finish garments in a dilapidated tenement, 5 Extra Pl., N.Y.C. ... (LOC)

Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), Lewis Hine (1874-1940) portrayed working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924.

The Library of Congress' National Child Labor Committee Collection includes more than 5,100 photographs that came with the records of the organization. Many of the pictures are familiar, but others are relatively unexplored. Accompanying original captions, often rich with detail, offer clues for learning more about individuals, places, and work environments from a hundred years ago.

Do some of the pictures (or captions) seem heavy-handed? This was definitely photography with a purpose: to support the NCLC's efforts to promote the "rights, awareness, dignity, well-being and education of children and youth as they relate to work and working." Hine traveled to many parts of the United States, documenting children at work in factories, fields, and doing piece work at home. He also used the photographs to portray the consequences of child labor, including its impact on the health, safety, and education of the next generation. In some cases, the photographs suggest solutions, including organized and healthful activities for the nation's youth.

The conditions Hine operated under were far from ideal. He referred to his work as "detective work," and his captions often provide details of the names, ages, hours, and wages of the people he photographed, as well as the name of a "witness" who accompanied him. Supervisors and workers frequently regarded him with suspicion. Hurried work under these conditions may explain why some information Hine recorded has proven inaccurate.

It's evident in many of the photographs that the workers were highly conscious of the camera. Nevertheless, Hine sometimes caught unguarded moments and playful interaction, as well as many memorable faces. Hine also used photographs to show what wasn't there—for example, an almost-empty school at harvest time. And sometimes, whatever the photographer intended, the people in the photograph simply saw the occasion as an opportunity for a family portrait.

Did people see the photos at the time? The NCLC made a concerted effort to show the pictures to the public, including them in its own publications and placing them in newspapers and progressive publications. The photos also appeared in stereopticon slide shows and in displays that the NCLC circulated.

We hope the photographs offer an opportunity for continuing exploration and reflection.

Learn more:

• View background information.

• View sources for reading about Hine's work and the National Child Labor Committee, including research about individuals in the photos.

• View a sample National Child Labor Committee report, showing how information on Maryland's canning industry integrated references to the photos into the text.

• View an example of how the high resolution digital files available through the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog enable viewing of details (sometimes gory ones) that drive home the message of the photographs: "Bringing an NCLC Photo into Focus."

• View the U.S. National Archives' set of Lewis Hine photos from the Progressive Era.

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Comments on this set

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J.T.R. says:

Thank you for providing this resource. I teach a course called Issues in Child Development at the University of Toronto, Scarborough and this will be an excellent source of illustration for the lecture on the evolution of the cultural concept of "childhood".

Many thanks!

J
Posted 20 months ago. ( permalink )

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jah32 says:

Sobering pictures and commentary. Sad to think that some parts of the world are still at this point of development socially.
Posted 20 months ago. ( permalink )

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