Lewis Hine (1874-1940) worked as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Between 1908 and 1924 his role was to document the working and living conditions of children in the United States.
By 1900, an estimated 1.7 million children under the age of 15 were employed in American industry. In 1910, the number had increased to 2 million.
At that time, Lewis Hine’s photographs were the only way to show the plight of working children.
The collection consists of more than 5,100 photographic prints and 355 glass negatives. Often, instead of being at school, children worked in factories, textile mills, or coal mines. Some worked night shifts lasting 12 hours.
The situation eventually changed when automatized technology made child labor obsolete.
All captions are original notes taken by the photographer.
Young Cigarmakers at Englahardt & Co., in Tampa, Florida. These boys looked under 14. Work was slack and youngsters were not being employed much. Labor told me in busy times many small boys and girls are employed. Youngsters all smoke. In January 1909. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Eagle and Phoenix Mill. “Dinner-toters” waiting for the gate to open. This is carried on more in Columbus than in any other city I know, and by smaller children. Many of them are paid by the week for doing it, and carry, sometimes ten or more a day. They go around in the mill, often help tend to the machines, which often run at noon, and so learn the work. A teacher told me the mothers expect the children to learn this way, long before they are of proper age. In Columbus, Georgia, in April, 1913. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Va. coal mine. $.75 a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. West Virginia in September 1908. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Bootblacks in and around City Hall Park, New York, on July 25, 1924. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Nearly Sold Out! “Basket ! Five Cents Each!” Antoinette Siminger, 12 years old at 10 P.M. Had been selling since morning. In Cincinnati, Ohio, August 1908. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Manuel, the young shrimp-picker, 5 years old, and a mountain of child-labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. In Biloxi, Mississippi, in February 1911. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Jewel and Harold Walker, 6 and 5 years old, pick 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day. Father said: “I promised em a little wagon if they’d pick steady, and now they have half a bagful in just a little while.” In Comanche County, Oklahoma, on October 10, 1916. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters 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. Mary works part of the time with her sick baby in her arms. Father works on the dock. In Dunbar, Louisiana, in March 1911. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Group of Breaker Boys in Hughestown Borough, Pennsylvania Coal Co. Smallest boy is Angelo Ross . In Januray 1911. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Rhodes Mfg. Co., Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. A moments glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. In Lincolnton, North Carolina, in November 1908. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Brown McDowell 12-year-old usher in Princess Theatre. Works from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. Can barely read; has reached the second grade in school only. Investigator reports little actual need for earnings. In Birmingham, Alabama, in October 1914. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Two newsgirls in Wilmington, Delaware, in May 1910. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Messenger boy working for Mackay Telegraph Company. Said 15 years old. Exposed to Red Light dangers. In Waco, Texas, in September 1913. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Glassworks at midnight. Indiana, in August 1908. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Merilda carrying cranberries. In Rochester, Massachusetts, in September 1911. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
2 A.M. February 12,1908. Papers just out. Boys starting out on morning round. Ages 13 years and upward. At the side door of Journal Building near Brooklyn Bridge in New York. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48 inches high, helps her sister in Elk Mills. Her sister (in photo) said, “Yes, she helps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at six this mornin’.” These two belong to a family of 19 children. In Fayetteville, Tennessee, in November 1910. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Freddie Kafer, a very immature little newsie selling Saturday Evening Posts and newspapers at the entrance to the State Capitol. He did not know his age, nor much of anything else. He was said to be 5 or 6 years old. Nearby, I found Jack who said he was 8 years old, and who was carrying a bag full of Saturday Evening Posts, which weighed nearly 1/2 of his own weight. In Sacramento, California, in May 1915. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
This little girl like many others in this state is so small she has to stand on a box to reach her machine. She is regularly employed as a knitter in London Hosiery Mills. Said she did not know how long she had worked there. In Loudon, Tennessee, in December 1910. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Boys picking over garbage on “the Dumps” in Boston, Massachusetts, in October 1909. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Fruit Vendors at Indianapolis Market, in August 1908. (L. W. Hine/LOC)
Rose Biodo, 10 years old. Working 3 summers. Minds baby and carries berries, two pecks at a time. This is the fourth week of school and the people here expect to remain two weeks more. In Brown Mills, New Jersey, on Sept. 28, 1910. (L. W. Hine/LOC)