The Social Photography of Lewis Hine
and
The Child Labor Reform Movement
1880 - 1918
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•
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What was the nature and extent
of Child Labor in the Gilded Age
and Progressive Period?
How did the National Child
Labor Committee work to
“reform” the conditions of child
labor?
What was the nature and impact
of Lewis Hine’s “social
photography,” particularly his
child labor photographs?
How might the Lewis Hine’s
child labor photographs and his
social photography approach be
used in history instruction?
Lewis Hine, Photographer.
At 5 p.m., boys going home from Monougal Glass Works.
One boy remarked, "De place is lousey wid kids."
Fairmont, West Virginia.
“This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the
prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen.
Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a
child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals
the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a
work certificate or work permit in order to be employed.
Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any
capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping
accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of
the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect
employers who employ children and to require them to keep
certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the
presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is
evidence of employment.”
-Official Summary of a bill introduced into the Missouri Senate by State Senator Jane
Cunningham (R)
“We are likely to find ourselves ... facing a situation
in which our chief task is not to imagine better
worlds but rather to think how to prevent worse
ones, how to keep what we have gained by virtue of
arduous struggles of those who have proceeded us.”
- Tony Judt (1945 - 2010)
What is Child Labor?
In many developed countries, it is considered inappropriate or exploitative if
a child below a certain age works (excluding household chores, in a family
shop, or school-related work). An employer is usually not permitted to hire a
child below a certain minimum age.
This minimum age depends on the country and the type of work involved.
States ratifying the Minimum Age Convention adopted by the International
Labor Organization in 1973, have adopted minimum ages varying from 14 to
16. Child labor laws in the United States set the minimum age to work in an
establishment without restrictions and without parents' consent at age 16
except for the agricultural industry where children as young as 12 years of
age can work in the fields for an unlimited number of non-school hours
“The Insidious Trend”
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The number of children under age 16 working
doubled between 1890-1900, from 1. 1 million
to 1.8 million By 1900, about 1 in every 6
children between the ages of five and ten were
engaged in “gainful occupations” in the United
States.
In 1900, 18% of children aged 10-15 were
employed, but these recorded numbers
understate the actual number or percentage of all
children employed, which might have been as
high as 30%.
Children under age 15 composed 25% of cotton
industry workforce in 1900 and the ratio of
children to adult workers was the highest in any
industry.
In the anthracite and bituminous coal mining
industries, boys almost exclusively filled three
occupations: slate picker, door tender, and mule
driver.
Children worked in most industries: glass
factories canneries.
Most newspaper vendors and messenger boys
Some of the workers in the Farrand Packing Co.
Baltimore, Maryland.
Photographer: Lewis Hine
Why hire children?
Employers hired children because they were cheap and relatively malleable
• Slate picker: 6-10 cents/hr.
• Meat packer: 2 cents/hr.
• Glass factory hand: 3 cents/hr.
• Cannery worker: 2.5 cents/hr.
• Sweatshops: 1-2 cents/hr.
• Train yard helper: 1-2 cents/hr.
• Mule Driver: 6-10 cents/hr.
• Cotton mills: 5 cents/hour for experienced 12 year olds. (Some mills gave children the
Three young boys with shovels standing in doorway of a Fort Worth & Denver train car.
“opportunity” to gain experience by allowing them to work without pay for a probationary
period of up to six weeks. At the end of the period, they often would be fired and replaced by a
new set of children on probationary status.)
A textile mill. Sweeper and doffer boys in Lancaster Cotton Mills, Lancaster, S.C.
Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine, December 1, 1908.
Pastimes and Vices
Richard Pierce, age 14.
A Western Union Telegraph Co.
messenger. Nine months in service, works
from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Smokes and visits houses of prostitution.
Wilmington, Delaware.
Photographer: Lewis Hine
Two
factory
girls
protesting
child
labor
(by
calling
it
child
slavery)
New York City Labor Day parade, May 1, 1909
The National Child Labor Committee
(1904 - Present)
In 1902 an Episcopalian minister, the
Reverend Edgar Gardner Murphy, founded
the Alabama Child Labor Committee.
The next year representatives of thirty-two
New York City settlement houses formed the
New York Child Labor Committee.
These groups collaborated on August 15,
1904, to establish the National Child Labor
Committee (NCLC), which was incorporated
in 1907 with a board that included prominent
Progressive reformers.
Edgar Gardner Murphy
(1869 - 1913)
Progressive Social Reform:
Redefining “Social Problems” and their Solutions
• Shift from blaming the poor to emphasizing social
injustice, from individual charity to social reform.
• Shift from “pauperism” (assuming that poverty
arises from poor character and morally incorrect
behavior) to regarding the poor as the victims of
social arrangements and social forces.
• Shift to a belief that modern science, methods of
efficiency, and social planning could be forces of
positive social change, if wielded with the right
intentions and not left in the hands of a wealthy elite.
• Shift from random charitable “giving’” to a more
systemic, rationalized, and professional approach to
solving social problems.
• Shift from an emphasis on private philanthropy to
solutions that required publicity, political lobbying,
legislative intervention, and professional expertise.
Hull House Social Worker and Clients, 1890’s
• Connecting reforming purpose with the latest
methods of scientific inquiry, such as the Pittsburgh
Survey.
• Shift from amateur philanthropists towards trained
professionals (social scientists, social workers,
community health/sanitation personnel) using
scientific methods, publicity and political organizing
to achieve social change.
Hull House Map of Nationalities, Chicago, 1893
Edward T. Devine
Jane Addams
(1860-1935)
Hull House
(1867 – 1948)
- Economist
- The Pittsburgh Survey
The National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) Board of Directors
Lillian Wald
Florence Kelley
(1867 – 1940)
(1859 – 1932)
- Founder National
Consumers League
- Chief Factory
Inspector, Illinois
- Co-founder, NAACP
"Florence is the toughest
customer in the reform riot, the
finest rough-and-tumble fighter
for the good life for others”
- Jane Addams
- Henry Street Settlement
- Community Nursing
- Co- Founder, NAACP
- U.S. Children’s Bureau
- Women’s League for
Peace and Freedom
Lewis Wickes Hine
1874-1940
“Social Betterment” by Teaching Compassionate Seeing
“We must contrast the evolutionary
character of education to those reforms that
are transitory and futile, which rest simply
upon the enactment of law, or the
threatening of certain penalties, or upon
changes in mechanical or outward
arrangements.”
“We must restore the continuity between the
refined and intensified forms of experience
that are works of art and the everyday
events, doings, and sufferings that are
universally recognized to constitute
experience.”
John Dewey
(1859 - 1952)
How did he do it?
Lewis Hine photographing
Featuring the original photo captions by Lewis W. Hine
http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/index.html
Newboys under the Brooklyn Bridge at Midnight
Furman
Owens
12 years old.
Columbia, S.C.
Can't read. Doesn't know his A,B,C's.
Said, "Yes I want to learn but can't when I work all the time." Been
in the mills 4 years, 3 years in the Olympia Mill.
Adolescent girls from
Bibb Mfg. Co. in
Macon, Georgia.
Doffer boys.
Macon, Georgia.
Children in the Mills
A general view of spinning room,
Cornell Mill. Fall River, Massachusetts.
A moment's glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 11 years old. Been
working over a year.
Rhodes Mfg. Co. Lincolnton, North Carolina.
Some boys and girls were so small they had to climb up on to the spinning
frame to mend broken threads and to put back the empty bobbins.
Bibb Mill No. 1. Macon, Georgia.
One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mill. She was 51 inches high. Has
been in the mill one year. Sometimes works at night. Runs 4 sides - 48
cents a day. When asked how old she was, she hesitated, then said, "I
don't remember," then added confidentially, "I'm not old enough to
work, but do just the same." Out of 50 employees, there were ten
children about her size. Whitnel, North Carolina.
The overseer said apologetically, "She just happened in." She
was working steadily. The mills seem full of youngsters who "just
happened in" or "are helping sister."
Newberry, South Carolina.
Jo Bodeon, a back-roper in the mule room at Chace
Cotton Mill. Burlington, Vermont.
The Newsies
“As to the little boys in industry,
we have an old assumption that
the boy we see on the sidewalk
will some day be the Marshall
Field or John Wanamaker of his
generation.
There
is
no
foundation for that. Marshall
Field was never a newsboy, and I
do not know that John
Wanamaker ever was one. We
have no evidence that street boys
grow into heroes of commerce.
We are really encouraging them
to be beggars and thieves when
we allow them to keep change
which they should return if they
are ever going to be business
men.”
- Florence Kelley
Text
The “Newsies”
A small newsie downtown on a Saturday afternoon.
St. Louis, Missouri.
A group of newsies selling on the Capitol steps. Tony, age 8, Dan, 9,
Joseph, 10, and John, age 11.
Washington, D.C.
Tony Casale, age 11, been selling 4 years. Sells sometimes until 10 p.m.
His paper told me the boy had shown him the marks on his arm where
his father had bitten him for not selling more papers. He (the boy) said,
"Drunken men say bad words to us."
Hartford, Connecticut.
Out after midnight selling extras. There were many young boys
selling very late. Youngest boy in the group is 9 years old. Harry, age
11, Eugene and the rest were a little older.
Washington, D.C.
Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers.
Jersey City, New Jersey.
Michael McNelis, age 8, a newsboy [seen with photographer Hine]. This
boy has just recovered from his second attack of pneumonia. Was found
selling papers in a big rain storm.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Francis Lance, 5 years old, 41 inches high. He jumps on and off moving
trolley cars at the risk of his life.
St. Louis, Missouri.
The Child Miners
Joe Puma
At the close of day. Waiting for the cage to go up. The cage is entirely open on two
sides and not very well protected on the other two, and is usually crowded like
this. The small boy in front is Jo Puma. South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Co. The dust was so dense at
times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrated the utmost recesses of the boys'
lungs. A kind of slave-driver sometimes stands over the boys, prodding or kicking
them into obedience. South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Noon hour in the Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co.
South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Work injury to coal mine breaker boy: loss of an eye.
“Luther Watson of Kentucky
is 14 years old. His right arm
was cut off by a veneering saw
in a box factory in Cincinnati
a month ago ...
November 1908.”
“He worked in the bung factory. He
walked past one of the machines, and
it got switched on somehow and his
arm got twisted up in it. It was
terrible. His parents were dead when
he had the injury. “
Questions for Instructional Activities around Child Labor
• Do these children look "young" as most children today do?
• Why did employers hire young children?
• Why did their parents let them work?
• Describe the kind of work they did. How long they work in a day?
• What are their working conditions. Where did they work? When did they
work? Do children today face any dangers that the children in these
photographs faced when working?
• How do you think adults treated children on the job?
• How much did they get paid?
• What might have been done to make their life better?
Breaker boys, Hughestown Borough Pennsylvania Coal Company.
One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston,
Pennsylvania.
Breaker boys. Smallest is Angelo Ross. Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Harley Bruce, a young coupling-boy at Indian Mine. He appears to be 12 or 14 years old
and says he has been working there about a year. It is hard work and dangerous. Near
Jellico, Tennessee.
A young driver in the
Brown Mine. Has been
driving one year. Works 7
a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Brown, West Virginia.
The Factory
View of the Scotland Mills, showing boys who work in mill.
Laurinburg, North Carolina.
9 p.m. in an Indiana Glass Works.
Midnight at the glassworks
Day scene. Wheaton Glass Works. Boy is Howard Lee. His mother showed me the
family record in Bible which gave his birth as July 15, 1894. 15 years old now, but
has been in glass works two years and some nights. Millville, New Jersey.
Robert Kidd
Rob Kidd, one of the young workers in a glass factory. Alexandria, Virginia.
Some of the young knitters
London Hosiery Mills. London, Tennessee.
Young cigar makers in Engelhardt & Co. Three boys looked under 14. Labor leaders told me
in busy times many small boys and girls were employed. Youngsters all smoke. Tampa,
Florida.
The Food Industry
Oyster shuckers working in a canning factory. All but the very smallest babies work. Began
work at 3:30 a.m. and expected to work until 5 p.m. The little girl in the center was working.
Her mother said she is "a real help to me." Dunbar, Louisiana.
Shrimp pickers, including little 8-year-old Max on the right.
Biloxi, Mississippi.
Johnnie, a 9-year-old oyster shucker. Man with pipe behind him is a Padrone who has
brought these people from Baltimore for four years. He is the boss of the shucking shed.
Dunbar, Louisiana.
Cutting fish in a sardine cannery. Large sharp knives are used with a cutting and
sometimes chopping motion. The slippery floors and benches and careless bumping
into each other increase the liability of accidents. "The salt water gits into the cuts and
they ache," said one boy. Eastport, Maine.
Hiram Pulk, age 9, working in a canning company. "I ain't very fast only about 5 boxes a
day. They pay about 5 cents a box," he said. Eastport, Maine.
Agricultural Labor
Camille Carmo, age 7, and Justine, age 9. The older girl picks about 4 pails a day.
Rochester, Mass.
Three boys, one of 13 yrs., two of 14 yrs., picking shade-grown tobacco on Hackett Farm. The
"first picking" necessitates a sitting posture. Buckland, Connecticut.
Six-year-old Warren Frakes. Mother said he picked 41 pounds yesterday "An I don't make
him pick; he picked some last year." Has about 20 pounds in his bag. Comanche County,
Oklahoma.
Twelve-year-old Lahnert boy topping beets. The father, mother, and two boys (9 and 12
yrs.) expect to make $700 in about 2 months time in the beet work. "The boys can keep up
with me all right, and all day long," the father said. Begin at 6 a.m. and work until 6 p.m.
with hour off at noon. Fort Collins, Colorado.
Norris Luvitt. Been picking 3 years in berry fields near Baltimore.
Struggling Families
A Jewish family and neighbors working until late at night sewing garters. This happens several
nights a week when there is plenty of work. The youngest work until 9 p.m. The others until 11
p.m. or later. On the left is Mary, age 7, and 10-year-old Sam, and next to the mother is a 12year-old boy. On the right are Sarah, age 7, next is her 11 year old sister, 13-year-old brother.
Father is out of work and also helps make garters. New York City.
A family working in the Tifton Cotton Mill. Four smallest children not working yet. The
mother said she earns $4.50 a week and all the children earn $4.50 a week. Husband died
and left her with 11 children. Two of them went off and got married. The family left the
farm two years ago to work in the mill. Tifton, Georgia.
Picking nuts in dirty basement. The dirtiest imaginable children were pawing over the nuts
and eating lunch on the table. Mother had a cold and blew her nose frequently (without
washing her hands) and the dirty handkerchiefs reposed comfortably on table close to the
nuts and nut meats. The father picks now. New York City.
A Brief History of Child Labor Reform Efforts
Proposed Solution
Compulsory Education:
Increase the number of
years of compulsory
education
State Child Labor Laws:
Labor unions and reformers
also lobbied for laws
restricting the hours a child
could work
Federal Child Labor
Law:
Lax or nonexistent
enforcement of state laws
regulating child labor led
progressive reformers to
seek a federal child labor
law.
Immediate Result
Final Outcome
Americanize immigrant children by
teaching them English and giving them
“correct” values by keeping them out of
the workplace.
Compulsory education did not solve the
problem because schools, bowing to
pressure from manufacturers,
established night schools for working
children.
Some states passed child labor laws:
Minimum-age laws had little effect:
employers did not inquire too closely
into the ages of children who worked
for them and children often lied about
their age, out of economic necessity to
work and help support their families.
Wages were so low that a family
could not subsist on just one or two
salaries.
By 1900 eight states prohibited children from
working at night. Most northern states mandated a
10-hour day and 60-hour week for children. Many
states also established a minimum age for industrial
work.
By 1912 only nine states had laws prohibiting the
employment of children under the age of 14 in
factories; under the age of 16 in mines, and required
an 8 hour work day for children ages 14 to 16.
Keating-Owen Act (1917):
Prohibited the sale in interstate
commerce of goods manufactured
by children in the United States
Hammer vs. Daghart (1918):
The Supreme Court struck down the
Keating-Owen Act as unconstitutional. The
court challenge was made by the Southern
Cotton Manufacturers. The court ruled that
Keating-Owen was an unwarranted exercise
of the federal government’s powers and an
invasion of state rights.
What Hine and the NCLC missed.
Juvenile Prisoners working the fields
Alabama
Convict wagons like these in Pitt County, North Carolina, 1910, were used
across the South to transport and house African-Americans, many of them
juveniles ages 12 to 6, compelled to work in road gangs, lumber camps, and
farms.
Young prisoner tied around a pickax for punishment in a Georgia labor camp
What is the rest of the story?
Recovering the Life Stories of Lewis Hine’s Child Laborers
(or, the Magic of Ancestry.com)
The Breaker Boys
Day scene. Wheaton Glass Works. Boy is Howard Lee. His mother showed me the
family record in Bible which gave his birth as July 15, 1894. 15 years old now, but
has been in glass works two years and some nights. Millville, New Jersey.
Occupation: plumber
Occupation: plumber
Harley Bruce, a young coupling-boy at Indian Mine. He appears to be 12 or 14 years old
and says he has been working there about a year. It is hard work and dangerous. Near
Jellico, Tennessee.
Occupation: Laborer, Coal Mine
“Luther Watson of Kentucky
is 14 years old. His right arm
was cut off by a veneering saw
in a box factory in Cincinnati
a month ago ...
November 1907.”
Mabel and Luther Watson
and grandsons, 1938
Mabel and Luther Watson, 1940’s
Daughters:
Della and Nola Watson, 1940’s
Luther Thomas Watson was born on July 09, 1892, in Grant County, Kentucky. His parents were John and Lucy
Powell Watson. He married Mabel Celia Freeman on April 18, 1914, in Ohio. Luther passed away on July 27, 1961,
at the age of 69, and wife Mabel died on June 25, 1972, at the age of 75.
I found Luther in the 1920 census. He was living in Covington, Kentucky, with his wife and two girls. His occupation
was listed as a telegraph messenger. In the 1930 census, he was listed as living in Elsmere, Kentucky, with two
additional girls, and he was employed as a switch tender for the railroad.
Breaker boys, Hughestown Borough Pennsylvania Coal Company.
One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston,
Pennsylvania.
Occupation: Linotyper, Printing Office
Occupation: City Policeman
The Child Miners
Joe Puma
At the close of day. Waiting for the cage to go up. The cage is entirely open on two
sides and not very well protected on the other two, and is usually crowded like
this. The small boy in front is Jo Puma. South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Occupation: coal miner
Robert Kidd
Rob Kidd, one of the young workers in a glass factory. Alexandria, Virginia.
Occupation: Helper, glass factory
Robert Ellis Kidd
Birth: 29 Sept 1898
Death: 30 May 1960 in
Alexandria, VA
Parents:
Joseph Montgomery Kidd (1854 1932 )
Ada Elica Buffrey (1863-1903)
Spouses:
Eleanor Blanche Mitchel (1907 2009)
1907 – 2009
Occupation: Clerk, Oil Company Office
Michael McNelis, age 8, a newsboy [seen with photographer Hine]. This
boy has just recovered from his second attack of pneumonia. Was found
selling papers in a big rain storm.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Michael McNelis
BIRTH: 15 Sep 1901 - Philadelphia, United States
PARENTS: None
MARRIAGE: 1953 - Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania
DEATH: 15 Apr 1971 - Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Pennsylvania,
SPOUSE: Gertrude Costello Thomas McNelis (1897-1988)
Lest we forget.
Lest we lose.
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