Kids as younger as 4 years outdated labored in appalling situations within the early 20th century.  We’ve collected classic pictures of 17 youngster labor jobs from that period in the USA.

The images are the work of investigative photographer Lewis Hine. He documented working situations on behalf of the Nationwide Youngster Labor Committee between 1908 and 1924. Hine needed to undertake disguises similar to Bible salesman and postcard vendor to achieve entry to workplaces.

Hine’s pictures and captions present that youngster labor jobs have been deeply ingrained in society in that period. Adults failed the youngsters throughout:

Dad and mom – Dad and mom lied about youngsters’s ages and compelled them to work out of financial necessity — and different motives. Hines had particular ire for dependent fathers, noting this father “loafs” or that one “sits round.”
Manufacturing facility house owners –  Hines railed at manufacturing facility house owners nonetheless utilizing youngster labor for harmful duties that their extra enlightened friends had automated.
Faculty authorities – Colleges didn’t implement truancy and oldsters evaded the principles. Too many youngsters grew up illiterate.
Authorities officers – Weak legal guidelines and officers who turned a blind eye made authorities complicit. In a single case the city mayor owned the offending mill.

Hine’s pictures helped drive a lot wanted reforms. Check out these 17 harmful and laborious youngster labor jobs.

Youngster Labor Jobs


Barefoot youngsters in mills and factories have been a typical sight. One job was that of doffer in cotton mills, the place somebody needed to alternate the stuffed bobbins containing spun thread with empty bobbins a number of instances per day.

That is from the Bibb Mill in Macon, Georgia, 1909.  The caption of this photograph says, “Some boys have been so small they needed to climb up on the spinning body to fix the damaged threads and put again the empty bobbins.”  Common earnings = 40 to 75 cents per day.

Cranberry Picker

Jennie Camillo, eight years outdated, lived close to Philadelphia.  However in the summertime of 1910 she and her household picked cranberries in Turkeytown, N.J.  She is carrying a heavy field of cranberries to the bushelman. Some city households handled migrant farm work as a trip of kinds. However Jennie doesn’t seem like she’s having enjoyable.

The photographer measured a peck field just like the woman is carrying and found it contained 10 quarts as a substitute of the eight dry quarts that staff have been paid for. So along with the back-breaking labor, staff have been cheated. Common youngster earnings = 6 to eight cents per field.


Tony, six years outdated, will get up at 5 am on a regular basis to promote papers on this photograph taken in Beaumont, Texas, 1913. In response to the caption, “He’s a daily beggar. ‘P-l-e-a-s-e purchase me papers.’”

Newsies, as they have been known as, went to the newspaper or distributor workplaces, picked up papers and offered them on the road. Newsies would possibly work till 10 pm at evening. Few went to high school. Hines famous that one didn’t know sufficient math to make change.  Common youngster earnings = 50 cents every week.

Mattress Spring Linker

The 2 boys pictured listed below are 14 and 15 years outdated.  They’re working in a furnishings manufacturing facility. Their job is to hyperlink collectively the springs for a mattress.

This photograph was taken in January 1917 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The caption doesn’t inform us the boys’ names.

Flower Maker

The household of Mrs. Mette makes flowers in a grimy tenement condo in New York, 1911. They assembled synthetic flowers by hand from petals, stems and different supplies.

The caption says, “Josephine, 13 yrs. outdated, helps out aspect faculty hours till 9 P.M. generally. … Nicholas, 6 yrs. outdated and Johnnie, eight yrs. Previous work some. So does Rosie, 11 yrs. outdated (not in photograph) who has been sick a very good deal. Child (20 months outdated) performs with the flowers, and so they anticipate he can assist somewhat earlier than lengthy.”  Common earnings = 40 to 50 cents every week, collectively.

Cotton Mill Spinner

On this iconic photograph, Sadie Pfeifer is a toddler and simply 48 inches tall. At present, she’d barely be tall sufficient for sure Disney points of interest! But she is engaged on an enormous spinning machine in a cotton mill in Lancaster, South Carolina, in 1908.

Hines captured dozens of different youngster laborers in cotton mills. He famous a number of situations of youngsters getting fingers crushed in machines. Dad and mom and kids alike lied about ages. They  wanted the cash for household survival. Common youngster earnings = 50 cents a day.

Oyster Shucker

This photograph reveals Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters a day in Dunbar, Louisiana in 1911. Brokers would recruit staff for the oyster season from out of state. Whole households would journey. All these transported, together with youngsters, needed to work.

In response to the caption, “The boss stated that subsequent yr Mary will work regular as the remainder of them. The mom is the quickest shucker within the place. Earns $1.50 a day. Works a part of the time together with her sick child in her arms. Father works on the dock.” Common youngster earnings = 30 to 40 cents a day.


A greaser was a boy who carried buckets of grease for coal automobiles in a mine. The boy within the heart of this photograph is Shorpy Higginbotham on the Bessie Mine in Alabama, in 1910.

The caption notes, “Stated he was 14 years outdated, however it’s uncertain. Carries two heavy pails of grease, and is usually at risk of being run over by the coal automobiles.” Common youngster earnings within the mines = as much as $1 a day.

 Shrimp Picker

Lillian Dambrinio, 11 years outdated, wears a dirty costume and apron, 1911. She is a shrimp picker for the Peerless Oyster Co. in St. Louis.

In response to the caption, “Says choosing makes her fingers sore. (Be aware the situation of her footwear. One employee instructed me, ‘The acid within the shrimp eats the footwear off your ft.’)  Goes to high school, however not when manufacturing facility is busy.”  Common youngster earnings = $1 a day when the shrimp are large.

Glass Employee

Kids have been routinely employed in glass making factories together with youngsters and adults.

The caption notes, “Even the tiny chap on left finish of photograph was working. He’s a Polish boy who can not perceive English. I noticed him at work simply earlier than 1 P.M.” Taken in 1910 on the Illinois Glass Co.  Common youngster earnings in glass factories = 70 cents to $1 per day.

Dinner Toter

Babies, some paid by the week, ship meals at lunch time to a mill in Columbus, Georgia in April 1913. Be aware that a variety of “little dinner toters” carry a number of baskets. Just a few enterprising boys have wagons to haul meals.

Employers, mother and father and officers evaded weak labor legal guidelines by permitting babies to assist older kinfolk. The caption says, “They go round within the mill, usually assist are inclined to machines, which frequently run at midday, and so be taught the work.”

Nut Picker

Nut pickers is one other household enterprise. Work was carried out at residence and everybody (nearly) pitched in to select nuts from shells.

This reveals the household of Dometrio Capilluto in New York. The caption says all too nicely what Hine thinks of unemployed fathers. “A typical scene within the tenements. Father sits round. Helen, 5 years outdated, and Adeline, 10 years outdated, assist decide nuts. Tessie, a neighbor, helps too. Adeline works till 9 p.m. at instances.” Common earnings = $Four every week all collectively.

Tobacco Wormer

Kids picked off worms from tobacco vegetation. Ora Fugate, a 10-year outdated boy, appears at fats worms he simply plucked off of tobacco leaves within the midst of a area.

Ora didn’t work for pay, however as a substitute labored on the household sharecropping farm. Household farm work was frequent on the time. It nonetheless takes place immediately, however not as back-breaking. Photographed in 1916 at Hedges Station, Kentucky.

Garment Finisher

Garment ending was one other household enterprise. Somebody would stroll to the garment manufacturing facility and decide up stacks of clothes. The household would “end” them by doing buttonholes and different stitching.  Then somebody carried the clothes again to the manufacturing facility.

The caption says, “Household of Onofrio Cottone, 7 Further Pl., N.Y., ending clothes in a very run down tenement. The daddy works on the road. The three oldest youngsters assist the mom on clothes. Joseph, 14, Andrew, 10, Rosie, 7….”  Common household earnings = $2 every week.

Mill Employee

Giles Edmund Newsom, 12 years outdated, fell right into a spinning machine. His hand went into unprotected gearing. He misplaced two fingers within the Bessemer Metropolis, North Carolina accident in 1912.

That was horrible sufficient. However his grownup kinfolk’ conduct was despicable. An lawyer was introduced in. The caption notes that the boy’s father “tried to compromise with the Firm when he discovered the boy would obtain the cash and never the mother and father. The mom tried responsible the boys for getting jobs on their very own hook, however she allow them to work a number of months. The aunt stated ‘Now he’s jes received to the place he may very well be of some assist to his ma an’ then this occurs and he can’t by no means work no extra like he oughter.’”


A typical job for boys and youngsters was that of bicycle messenger. What’s much less frequent is these with an entrepreneurial streak, like Issac Boyett.  “I’m de entire present,” he instructed Hines in 1913.

Simply 12 years outdated, the caption says he’s the proprietor, supervisor and messenger of Membership Messenger Service in Waco, Texas. He runs messages within the Purple Mild District, proven right here, and is aware of the homes and girls nicely.  Common earnings = $6 to $10 per week.

Cigar Maker

This photograph reveals youngsters aspect by aspect with adults making cigars by hand, 1909. The caption refers back to the “manufacturing facility of Filogamo & Alvarez, Tampa, Fla. Work was slack.”

Some youngsters paid the boss between $18 and $25 to be allowed to apprentice with out pay, so they may be taught the commerce. The cigar making business was one of many earliest to be unionized. Attention-grabbing reality: Samuel Gompers, the president of the AFL (as within the AFL-CIO) began as a cigar maker.

Extra About Youngster Labor Jobs

Youngster labor jobs stole the childhoods and futures of generations of American youngsters up by means of the early 20th century. Blacks, whites, brown-skinned individuals, immigrants, People right here for generations, city dwellers and rural agricultural staff — all on the lowest financial ranges have been in danger.

Kids labored at laborious, soiled and harmful jobs, and didn’t get education. They earned a pittance. At a time when a Coca Cola value 5 cents, it generally took hours of labor to earn an equal quantity. And few of those youngsters could ever have tasted such a deal with.

The center class and the rich averted their eyes.

Advocates like Hine helped ignite the general public conscience and inform lawmakers.

Main change got here in 1938 underneath President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the Truthful Labor Requirements Act (FLSA). Amongst different issues, it outlawed egregious youngster labor practices.  Consultant Mary Norton shepherded it by means of Congress, saying, “I’m prouder of getting that invoice by means of the Home than anything I’ve carried out in my life.”

Quick ahead to immediately. The FLSA remains to be the first U.S. youngster labor legislation. It ensures that younger individuals work solely at jobs which are protected and solely when they’re sufficiently old.  Hours are restricted and can’t intervene with their schooling. See the Division of Labor reality sheets for particulars.

Picture credit: Library of Congress, Youngster Labor Committee Assortment, all photographs in public area


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