I came across some haunting photos the other day. They were photos of child laborers and poverty in the early 1900’s. Children were put to work to help out their family in their home (this was called homework) factories, mines, fields and other laborious jobs. Many impoverished children worked instead of attending school. This robbed them of an education and their childhood.
At that time, my maternal grandparent, their parents, sibling and other family members came to America (Ellis Island) from Italy. While some stayed in New York, some moved farther north to New England and other parts of the country.
I mention this only because while I was browsing those photos, I came across one that caught my eye. It was a photo of three boys with the same name as my grandfather’s surname. I was bowled over with excitement. The names of the boys were familiar, but I can’t find any family member who can confirm how they are related to me.
The full description for the photo is here.
Meanwhile, getting back to the story-
In 1908 the National Child Labor Committee hired Lewis Hine, a teacher and professional photographer trained in sociology, who advocated photography as an educational medium, to document child labor in American industry. Over the next ten years Hine would publish thousands of photographs designed to pull at the nation’s heartstrings. Lewis Hine became an investigative photojournalist for the National Child Labor Committee in the early 1900s.
Lewis Hine was an influential photo journalist in the years leading up to the First World War. It was during those years that the American economy was doing well, and the need for labor was at an all time high. Cheap labor was necessary, and American businesses were not only looking for immigrant workers but also child labor as well. The factory-oriented jobs were very specific, and a child was a perfect candidate for the work that was necessary. Their small hands and energy was beneficial to the assembly line –Source: National Child Labor Committee
Lewis Hine used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States. Hine’s work for the NCLC was often dangerous. As a photographer he was frequently threatened with violence or even death by factory police and foreman. At the time the immortality of child labour was meant to be hidden from the public. Photography was not only prohibited but posed a serious treat to the industry. In order to gain entry into these mills, mines and factories, Hines was forced to assume many guises. At times he was a fire inspector, post card vendor, bible salesman or even an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery. Source: Lewis Hines
The face of poverty in American today is not the face in the early part of the 20th Century. Certainly, there are many reason as to why this happened. But for now, I would like you to view the gallery, that I have assembled. The gallery consists of some of the over 5000, on various subjects, photos taken by Lewis Hines. The photos shown in this gallery are some of the ones on child labor and poverty found on the Library of Congress‘ site. Each photo, in this gallery, is titled by what Hine wrote on the back of each photo.
Click Lewis Hines-Child Labor in America to view the gallery.