Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor

Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor

Alli - November 12, 2017

“They began work at 5:30 and quit at 7 at night. Children six years old going home to lie on a straw pallet until time to resume work the next morning! I have seen the hair torn out of their heads by the machinery, their scalps torn off, and yet not a single tear was shed, while the poodle dogs were loved and caressed and carried to the seashore.” -Mary Harris Jones

No second-hand account could do justice to the horrors of child labor. The quote above by Mary Harris Jones gives light to the atrocities in using children to do not only adult’s work but grueling work. But this account surely couldn’t be describing a civilized nation? Unfortunately, this exact scenario played out vehemently on American ground. Despite many people’s infatuation with the United States, it is built on some very ugly truths. One of those less than appealing secrets revealed is that child labor was a rampant issue during the industrial revolution.

Although using children as servants and apprentices was normal practice during this time, the Industrial Revolution brought child labor to new extremes. While any type of factory labor during this period went unchecked and did not have any policies protecting workers, children found themselves particularly vulnerable to this new age. Children often worked long hours in dangerous factory conditions for very little compensation. Children were very valuable in the overcrowded factories due to their small size and ability to maneuver in small spaces or even mines. In addition to their size, factories found children much easier to manage- having fewer demands- and they could be paid far less than adults.

During this time, children worked to help support their families and thwarted any type of education. This type of lifestyle opened up a whole new world of suffering for children in this era. Once these horrors reached the public eye, nineteenth-century reformers and labor organizers worked to restrict child labor and improve working conditions for all factory workers. Despite their efforts, no real change came about until the market crash. The Great Depression left so many without jobs, Americans wanted all available jobs to go to adults- who could be paid more- rather than child workers.

The following images follow the struggles of these children in the Industrial Revolution working in factories- mostly in unacceptable working conditions in today’s standards. Lewis Hine photographed every image below to shed light on the small shoulders so much sadness and work was laid on. The legal system, primarily the Constitution and the limited scope of powers it granted to the federal government, proved to be a primary challenge to reform. By the end of the Great Depression century, the Supreme Court had not heard a single case about child labor.

Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Spinners in Pell City, Alabama, November 1910. Flashbak.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
A boy makes melon baskets at basket factory. Evansville, Indiana. October 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Boy at mill in Gastonia, North Carolina. Had been working at the Loray Mill for two years. November 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Spinners and Doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Dozens of them in the mill. Lancaster, SC, December 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Young spinner girl in Roanoke. Photographer said she claimed “She was 14 years old, but it was doubtful.” May 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
A baseball team composed of child laborers pose for a team picture. Indiana 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
5 year old Francis Lane sells his newspapers. Child Laborers were not just factory workers. Children worked an array of jobs, underpaid and overworked. St. Louis, MO 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Hine notes on this photograph: “Anne, 7 years old, and brother Vincent said he was 11. Inez, sister said 6 years old,. Smallest one not quite large enough to work. Father works in Parker Mills. Parker Mills, Mass, September 1911.” Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
A young raveler and looper work together in London Hosiery Mill, London, Tennessee. December 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Group of young cartoners in Seacoast Canning Co. Not the youngest. Eastport, Maine, August 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
A group of young boys work in the Alexandria Glass Factory. Alexandria, Virginia, June 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
A young girl works as a spinner in Carolina Mill, 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
“In a saloon doorway at 8:30 P.M. Left to right, George Cappello, 12 years old. Frank Laporter, 13 years old. Utica, N.Y., February 1910.” Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Boys packing brooms at Brown Manufacturing Company, India, 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
5 year old Salvin Nocito carries two pecks of cranberries to the bushel man. Whites Bog, September 1910.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Young boys pick over garbage at the Boston Massachusettes dump in October 1908. Photo by Lewis Hine.

Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
“A family picking nuts. Mother nursing baby while picking nuts. Was suffering with a sore throat. Rosie, 3, hanging around; Genevieve, 6, Tessie, 6, picks too. Make $1.50 to $2 a week. New York City, December 1911.” Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
“Boy who carries barrels. Robert Saunders, 10 years old. Is the son of the boss. Mother picks too. Falmouth, Massachusettes, 1912” Photo and caption by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Annette Roy (second from left) is the youngest worker picking here. South Carver, Massachusettes, 1912. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Belford Coldos, 8 years old, picking on Weeks’ Bog. Falmouth, Massachusettes, September 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Merilda, carrying cranberries. Rochester, Massachusettes, September 1911. Child labor was an integral part of agricultural and handicraft economy. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Mule spinning room in Chace Cotton Mill. Leopold Daigneau (Left hand), Arsene Lussier, Back roping boys. Burlington, Vermont, May 1909. Ultimately, young women and adult immigrants replaced these children in the textile industry, but child labor continued in other businesses. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Charlie Fernande works showing the scoop. Most of the scooping was done by adults. Wareham, Massachusettes. September 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Lancaster Mill, South Carolina was one of the mills which used many child laborers. Hine wrote: “adie Pfeifer, 48 inches high. Has worked half a year. One of the many small children at work in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Lancaster, S.C., November 1908.” Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
One of the worst working conditions can be seen in this photograph. View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view, January 1911 S. Pittston, Pennsylvania. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Norris Luvitt, picks berries in a berry field in Baltimore, Massachusettes. At the time of this photograph, Luvitt had been working in this job for 3 years. June 1909. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
These little girls worked in Richmond Hosiery Mills. Rossville, Georgia. December 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Young pickers at Swift’s Bog, Falmouth, Massachusettes. September 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Hine captioned this photo: “Breaker boys. Smallest is Angelo Ross. Hughestown Borough Coal Co. Pittston, Pa, January 1911.” Photo by Lewis Hine.
Heartbreaking Photographs Reveal America was Built on the Shoulders of Child Labor
Jo Bodeon, a back-roper in mule room. Chace Cotton Mill. Burlington, Vermont. May 1909. Photo by Lewis Hine.

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