Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day - Women & children in the workplace in early 1900s America by Photographer Lewis Wickes Hine 1874-1940

 "January 1909. Two of the helpers in the Tifton Cotton Mill at Tifton, Georgia. They work regularly."

Lewis Wickes Hine, born in 1874 in Wisconsin & died in 1940, was an American sociologist & photographer. Using his camera as a tool for social reform, his photographs were instrumental in changing child labor laws in the United States. His photos were accompanied by descriptions supplied by witnesses, which are related in the captions here.

In 1908-1912, he became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Over the next decade, Hine documented children working at home & in American industry to aid the NCLC’s lobbying efforts to end the practice.  Photos are at the  Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division (NWCS-S), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, 20740-6001.

"5 year old Helen and her stepsisters hulling strawberries at Johnson's Hulling Sta. Helen is an orphan, who, one month after the death of her widowed mother, was adopted by the Hope family of Seaford. This is her 2nd season at Johnson's Hulling Sta. On the day of investigation, she started working at 6 A.M., and at 6 P.M. the same day, Helen was still hulling strawberries. Seaford, Del, May 1910"

"January 19, 1909. Macon, Georgia. Some adolescents in Bibb Mill No. 1"

  "Two of the tiny workers, a raveler and a looper in London Hosiery Mills. London, Tenn, December 1910"

"All these pick shrimp at the Peerless Oyster Co. I had to take photo while bosses were at dinner as they refused to permit the children to be in photos. Out of 60 workers, 15 were apparently under 12 years old. Bay St. Louis, Miss, March 1911"

 "Eight year old Jennie Camillo lives in West Maniyunk, Pa. (near Philadelphia). For this summer she has picked cranberries. This summer she is at Theodore Budd's Bog at Turkeytown, N.J. This is the fourth week of school in Philadelphia and people will stay here two weeks more, September 1910"

 "Some of the young girls who roll cigarettes. I could not induce the very smallest ones to get into the photo. One boy said, Lots are working under 14. I went in under 12. Danville, Va, June 1911"

"7-year-old Rosie shucks about 4 pots a day at Varn & Platt Canning in Bluffton, South Carolina."

"Group of children carrying in their pecks to the bushel man. We measured one of these peck boxes and found it contained 10 quarts instead of eight. Theodore Budd's Bog at Turkeytown, N.J. This is the fourth week of school in Philadelphia and the people will stay here two weeks more, September 1910"

"Young spinner in Roanoke Cotton Mills. Said 14 years old, but it is doubtful. Roanoke, Va, May 1911"

"Some of the young girls working in the Pelzer Mfg. Co. Not the youngest. Some of them seem surely under 12. All in photo work. Pelzer, S.C, May 1912"

"Alberta Mc Nadd on Chester Truitt's Farm. Alberta is 5 years old and has been picking berries since she was 3. Her mother volunteered the information that she picks from sun-up to sun-down. Cannon, Del, May 1910"

"3 year old and 2 boys hulling berries at Johnson's Canning Camp. Seaford, Del, May 1910"

"On right hand end is Marie Colbeck, 8 years old, who shucks 6 or 7 pots of oysters a day (30 or 35 [cents]) at Alabama Canning Factory.  Bayou La Batre, Ala, February 1911"

"A mother hulling berries while she nurses her infant. Her other children sit beside her, also at work. Little Mabel Guthrie, 4 years old, started working last year. Seaford, Del, May 1910"

"The girl berry carriers on Newton's Farm. Ann Parion, 13 years of age, working her 5 season, carries 60 Lbs. of berries from the field to the sheds. Andenito Carro, 14 years old, working her 2nd season, is carrying a 25 lb. load of berries. Besides the great physical strain in carrying such weight, these girls also pick berries. When Andenito was asked her age, she responded 12, at which her mother interrupted to say she was past 14. Cannon, Del, May 1910"

"Daisy Langford, 8 years old, works on Ross's Canneries, Seaford, Del. She helps at the capping machine, but is not yet able to keep-up. She places caps on cans at the rate of about 40 per minute working full time. This is her first season in the cannery, June 1910"

"Force working in West Point Cotton Mills. West Point, Miss, May 1911"

"A little spinner in a Georgia cotton mill. January 1909."

"Josie (age 6), Bertha (age 6) and Sophie (age 10) shuck at the Maggioni Canning Company in Port Royal."

"September 1911. Merilda carrying cranberries at Eldridge Bog near Rochester, Mass."

"November 1908. A typical Spinner at Lancaster Cotton Mills in South Carolina."

"At the Maggioni Canning Company in Port Royal, South Carolina, children shucked oysters for 4 hours before a half day of school, returning for 3 more hours of work after school."

"A little spinner in the Globe Cotton Mill. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed there. Augusta, Ga, January 1909"

"January 1909. Tifton, Georgia. Workers in the Tifton Cotton Mills. All these children were working or helping, 125 in all."

"Addie Laird, 12 years old. Spinner in a Cotton Mill. Girls in mill say she is 10 years old. She admitted to me that she was 12 years old, that she started during school vacation and now would stay. North Pownal, Vt, February 1910"

"September 1911. Cranberry pickers at Smart's Bog near South Carver, Mass."

"Laura Petty, a 6 year old berry picker on Jenkins Farm. "I'm just beginnin'. Licked two boxes yesterday." Gets 2 [cents] a box. Rock Creek, Md, June 1909"

"Payne Cotton Mill. Girl with drooping eyes and hands on hips has been helping one year. Macon, Ga, January 1909"

"Minnie Pastor, 10 years old, tending news stand in New York. New York City, July 1910"

"Slebzak family (Polish) working on Bottomley Farm. They have worked here 3 years and one winter at Avery Island, La. All work except the very smallest. She hangs aroung the fields. Begin work about 4 A.M and work sometimes until sunset. Rock Creek, Md, June 1909"

"1911. The girl works all day in a cannery. Location unspecified but possibly Mississippi."

"Seaford, Delaware. May 1910. "Mother and children hulling strawberries at Johnson's Hulling Station. Cyral (in baby cart) is 2 yrs. old this May and works steadily hulling berries. At times Cyral would rest his little head on his arm and fall asleep for a few minutes and then wake up, commencing all over to hull berries. While it was found in this investigation that children 3, 4, 5 yrs. were accustomed to start out before sun-up to pick berries, we have not found many cases such as this."

"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."

"Some of the workers in the Farrand Packing Co. Baltimore, Md, June 1909"

"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"

"August 1908. Noon hour in an Indianapolis cotton mill."

"Rose Biodo, Philadelphia, 10 years old. Working 3 summers, minds baby and carries berries, two pecks at a time. Whites Bog, Brown Mills, N.J. This is the fourth week of school and the people expect to remain here two weeks more, September 1910"

 "July 1909. Baltimore, Maryland. Workers stringing beans in the J.S. Farrand Packing Co. Those too small to work are held on laps of workers or stowed away in boxes."

"At the Maggioni Canning Company in Port Royal, South Carolina, children shucked oysters for 4 hours before a half day of school, returning for 3 more hours of work after school"

"Spinners and doffers in Lancaster Cotton Mills. Dozens of them in this mill. Lancaster, S.C., December 1908"

"March 1909. Hartford, Conn. Newsgirls coming through the alley. The smallest girl has been selling for 2 years."

"The supervisor said, "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. 1908"

"September 1911. Cranberry pickers at Smart's Bog near South Carver, Mass. "Annette Roy, the youngest worker. Said 7 years old. Picked last year. Lives at 171 Orange Street, Fall River. Also Napoleon Ruel, 53 Hopkins Street. Said 9 years old."

  "The Supt. and a group of children under 16 years starting work after noon. Yazoo City, Miss, May 1911"

"August 1908, Cincinnati. Lena Lochiavo, 11 years old, Basket Seller, Sixth Street Market. Saloon entrance. 11 p.m. Had been there since 10 a.m. and not yet sold out."

"4 year old Mary, who shucks oysters, (two pots a day). Tends the baby when not working. The boss said that next year Mary will work steady as the rest of them. The mother is the fastest shucker in the place. Earns $1.50 a day. Works part of the time with her sick baby in her arms. Father works on the docks. Dunbar, La, February 1911"

"Adrienne Pagnette, and adolescent French illiterate, speaks almost no English. Is probably 14 or 15. Doffs on the top floor spinning room. Her brother is 15 but I doubt it. Her sister Annie said she was 12 years old and helps sister in mill. Been at it all summer. Stooping, reaching and pushing heavy boxes is bad for young girl adolescent. Winchendon, Mass, September 1911"

"Workers in Dunbar, Louisiana stand in front of a shell pile.  They work from 3 AM until 5 PM."

"These all work in Cleveland Hosiery Mills. The very youngest one (with curls) said, "I ravels and picks up." Small boy in another mill said, "Over in Cleveland, they work em so little, they have to stand em on boxes to reach." Children here and in the hosiery mills generally seemed better dressed and in better condition than in spinning mills. Cleveland, Tenn, December 1910"

"8-year-old Annie from Baltimore is a shucker in the Dunbar Cannery, (Dunbar, Louisiana)."

" Three pickers going home from work. Anne, 7 years old, and brother Vincent said 11. Vincent picked last summer. Inez, sister said 6 years old, and picked last summer wid me mudder. Smallest one not quite large enough to get work. Father works in Parker Mills. Parker Mills, Mass, September 1911"

 "Operatives in Indianapolis Cotton Mill. Noon Hour. August 1908."

"April 1909. Phenix, Rhode Island. Edward St. Germain and sister Delia. She has been working in Phoenix Mill for eight months. He works also. They cannot speak English."

"Young pickers on Swift's Bog. All working. Falmouth, Mass, September 1911"

"Girls working in Tampa, Florida, cigar box factory. I saw 10 small boys and girls. Has had reputation for employment of youngsters but work is slack now. January 28, 1909."

"Camille Carmo, Justine, 7 and 9 years old. The older one picks about 4 pails a day. Youngest was picking also. Rochester, Mass, September 1911"

"Teixiera family. Mary 11 years old; Manuel, 10 yrs. Mother and these two children pick 40 measures a day at 7 [cents] a measure. See scoops and pail in foreground. There were two out of 18 workers apparently under 12 and they expected to work several weeks more, losing some weeks of schooling. Falmouth, Mass, September 1911"

 "Two newsgirls. Wilmington, Del, May 1910"

"Circa 1909. Straw beds and footlockers in shack occupied by berry pickers. Anne Arundel County, Maryland."


  1. Thank you for posting this collection and making it available for us to see.

  2. Thank you for this stunning portrait of the conditions of children working in the U.S.A. during this era. When people complain about unions, they are often not aware of the history behind them.