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Child Labor. As Seen Through the Photographs of Louis Wikes Hine. Faces of Lost Youth.

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child labor

Child Labor

As Seen Through the Photographs of Louis Wikes Hine

Furman Owens, 12 years old. 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. Columbia, South Carolina.
A moments glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 11 years old. Been working over a year. Rhodes Mfg. Co. Lincolnton, North Carolina.
Small boys and girls climbed up onto the spinning frame to mend brokenthreads 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, N.C.
The overseer said apologetically, "She just happened in." The mills seem full of youngsters who "just happened in" or "are helping sister." Newberry, S.C.
A group of newsies on 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, Conn.
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.
Michael McNelis, age 8. This boy has just recovered from his second attack of pneumonia. Was found selling papers in a big rain storm. Philadelphia, Pa.
Francis Lance, 5 years old. 41 inches high. He jumps on and off moving trolley cars at the risk of his life. St. Louis, Mo.
At the close of the 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. S. Pittston, Pa.
Ewen Breaker, Penn. 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, Penn.
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, Tenn.
Breaker boys, Hughestown Borough Pa. Coal Co. One of these is James Leonard, another is Stanley Rasmus. Pittston, Pa.
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.
Young cigar makers in Engelhardt & Co. who look under 14. Labor leaders said in busy times many small boys and girls were employed. Youngsters all smoke. Tampa, Fla.
Willie, a Polish boy, taking his noon rest in a doffer box at the Quidwick Co. Mill. Anthony, R.I.
Day scene. Wheaton Glass Works. Boy is Howard Lee, 15 years old. Has been in glass works two years and some nights. Millville, N.J.
Oyster shuckers working in Dunbar, LA, canning factory from 3:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. All but the very smallest work, including girl in center. Her mother said she is "a real help to me."
Johnnie, a 9 year old oyster shucker. The man behind him is a padrone who has brought these people from Baltimore for 4 years. He is their boss. Dunbar, LA.
Manuel the young shrimp picker, age 5, with a mountain of child labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. Biloxi, Miss.

Cutting fish in a sardine cannery. Large sharp knives are used with a cutting and chopping motion. Slippery floors & benches & careless bumping increase the possibility of accidents. "The salt water gits into the cuts and they ache," said one boy. Eastport, ME.

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, ME.
A berry field on Rock Creek. Whites and blacks, old and young, work here from4:30 a.m. to sunset some days. A long hot day. Rock Creek, Md.
Camille Carmo, age 7, and Justine, age 9. The older girl picks about 4 pails a day. Rochester, Mass.
After 9 p.m., 7 year old Tommie Nooman demonstrating the advantages of the Ideal Necktie Form in a store window on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. His father said, "He is the youngest demonstrator in America. Has been doing it for several years from San Francisco, to New York. We stay a month or six weeks in a place. He works at it off and on." Remarks from the by-standers were not having the best effect on Tommie.
Joseph Severio, peanut vender, age 11. Been pushing a cart 2 years. Out after midnight on May 21, 1910. Ordinarily works 6 hours per day. Works of his own volition. All earnings go to his father. Wilmington, Delaware.
George Christopher, Postal Telegraph, age 14. Been at it over 3 years. Does not work nights. Nashville, Tenn.

Mrs. Battaglia (pictured with Tessie, 12, and Tony, 7) works in a garment shop except on Saturdays, when the children sew with her at home for 2 or 3 cents a pair finishing men's pants. They earn $1-1.50 on Saturday. Father disabled and can earn very little. NY City.


Jewish family & neighbors working until late at night sewing garters. The youngest work until 9 p.m., the others until 11 p.m. or later. Out of work father helps make garters. NY City.


Picking nuts in dirty basement. The dirtiest imaginable children were pawing over the nuts 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. NY City.

Messengers absorbed in their usual game of poker in the "Den of the terrible nine" (the waiting room for Western Union Messengers, Hartford, Conn.). They play for money. Some lose a whole month's wages in a day and then are afraid to go home.
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, Del.
Two of the smaller girls with three other sisters work on the night shift and support a big, lazy father who complains he is not well enough to work. He loafs around the country store. The oldest three of these sisters have been in the mill for 7 years, and the two youngest, two years. The latter earns 84 cents a night. Whitnel, N.C.
  • Children on the night shift going to work at 6 p.m. on a cold, dark December day. They do not come out again until 6 a.m. When they went home the next morning they were all drenched by a heavy, cold rain and had few or no wraps.
At 5 p.m., boys going home from Monougal Glass Works. One boy remarked, "De place is lousey wid kids." Fairmont, W. Va.
Fish cutters at a Canning Co in Maine. Ages range from 7 to 12. They live near the factory. The 7 year old boy in front, Byron Hamilton, has a badly cut finger but helps his brother regularly. Behind him is his brother George, age 11, who cut his finger half off while working. Ralph, on the left, displays his knife and also a badly cut finger. They and many youngsters said they were always cutting themselves.

George earns a $1 some days usually 75 cents. Some of the others say they earn a $1 when they work all day. At times they start at 7 a.m. and work all day until midnight.


Adapted from:

  • The History Place