50 Haunting Photos of Child Labor in the Early 1900s

The Industrial Revolution ushered in a wave of change in the workforce. With advances in technology, production became quicker, more efficient, and the amount of product that could be produced grew exponentially.

With the demand for products increasing, production had to be quicker and hours had to be long to meet these demands. Industries like textiles, mills, mining, and agriculture saw significant increases in supply and demand.

It soon became clear that the current workforce could not keep up with the increasing demand on goods. Because of this, industries looked for other means of filling this need in their supply output.

This led to a boom in child labor. Some statistics even quote the percentage of the workforce during the Industrial Revolution that consisted of children at 20%.

Children were increasingly exploited during this time. Little to no pay with little to no breaks. Long work days frequently going over 10 hours a day.

Children were also often used to perform dangerous tasks because they were often the only ones who could fit or had hands small enough to be or reach into small spaces in factories and mines.

This exploitation of child labor led to the creation of the National Child Labor Committee. Their goal was to reform the child labor laws and protect children from these harsh conditions in the early 1900s.

In 1908, Lewis Hines started working for the NCLC. He had the difficult and often dangerous job of capturing images of the exploitation of children to bring them to the public eye, as this was a practice that was hidden from the public as much as possible at this time.

Despite threats of death and violence, he was able to capture hundreds of photographs that helped the NCLC lobby to better the lives of children during this time. The following photos from Hine’s collection highlight the dangerous and difficult lives of child laborers during the Industrial Revolution.

A trapper boy holding the door open at a mine. Lewis Hine
Lewis Hine captured the soot-stained faces of a group of children working at the mines.
Ewen Breaker, Pennsylvania Coal Co., in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, in January of 1911. Lewis Hine
Pin-boys at the Arcade bowling alley in New Jersey. December 20, 1909. Lewis Hine
A 7-year-old newsie named Ferris. Mobile, Alabama, in October of 1914. Lewis Hine
A group of young mine workers pose for a picture outside the mines in West Virginia. Lewis Hine
Eight-year-old, Jennie Camillo picking cranberries. Pemberton, New Jersey, 1910. Lewis Hine
Twelve-year old Clinton Stewart and his mowing machine which cut off his hand. August 1915. Lewis Hine
A young boy starting is career in the mines. Lewis Hine
Textile mill workers in Newberry, South Carolina 1908. Lewis Hine
A young leader and a driver, Shaft #6, Pennsylvania Coal Company in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Lewis Hines
Trapper Boy, Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, West Virginia. Lewis Hine
Shorpy Higginbotham, a “greaser” on the tipple at Bessie Mine in Alabama. December 1910. Lewis Hine
Bertha Marshall was a berry picker on Jenkins farm. Baltimore, Maryland, July 7, 1909. Lewis Hine
A boy shoveling Ore at Daisy Bell Mine, Aurora, Missouri. Lewis Hine
A boy milks the cow on the family farm, Elizabethtown vicinity, Kentucky. Lewis Hine
Marie Costa, left, selling baskets on the street 9 p.m. with her sister and a friend in Cincinnati. Lewis Hine
10 year old Jimmie shucking oysters at Varn & Platt Canning Co, South Carolina. Lewis Hine
Michael McNelis, newsie, age 8. Lewis Hine
Lewis Hine
Doffers in Mollahan Mills in Newberry, South Carolina. December 3, 1908. Lewis Hine
Inside workers shaft #6 Pennsylvania Coal Company in Pittston, Pennsylvania. Lewis Hine
A cotton mill boy named Johns Lewis, 12 years old. Chester, South Carolina. Lewis Hine
1911, young workers at a glass factory in Alexandria, Va. Lewis Hine
A young driver in the Brown mine. West Virginia. September of 1908. Lewis Hine
A young newsie sleeping on stairs in Jersey City, New Jersey, November 1912. Lewis Hine
A boy making Melon Baskets at A Basket Factory, Evansville, Indiana. Lewis Hine
10-year-old spinner at the Rhodes Mfg. Co. in Lincolnton, North Carolina. Lewis Hine
Girl entering the factory door in New York, New York. Lewis Hine
A10-year-old boy on a tobacco farm in Connecticut in 1917. Lewis Hine
Spinner in the Globe Cotton Mill, Augusta, Georgia. 1909. Lewis Hine
A small apprentices at De Pedro Casellas Cigar Factory, Tampa, Florida. Jan. 28, 1909. Lewis Hine
An injured boy, Giles Edmund Newsom. Injured while working in Sanders Spinning Mill in North Carolina, on August 21st, 1912. Lewis Hine
Adolescent girls working at Bill Mill No. 1 in Macon, Georgia. Jan. 19, 1909. Lewis Hine
“Carrying-in” boy in Alexandria Glass Factory, Alexandria, Virginia. Lewis Hine
Group of workers stringing beans in J.S. Farren & Co. Baltimore, Maryland, 1909. Lewis Hine
Western Union messengers in Hartford, Connecticut. Lewis Hine
A boy selling lemons. Boston, Massachusetts. Lewis Hine
An 11-year-old cotton picker named Callie Campbell. Potawotamie County, Oklahoma. Lewis Hine
15 year old Vance, a trapper boy, by a large door in a coal mine. Photographed in West Virginia in September 1908. Lewis Hine
Quick break at the Danville Cigarette Factory in Virginia. Lewis Hine
Young Boy Coal Miner, 1909-13. Lewis Hine
Young girls going home from Brown’s Shoe factory in St. Louis, Missouri. Lewis Hine
Manuel, a 5-year-old shrimp-picker, five years old. Biloxi, Mississippi. Lewis Hine
A boy moving steel rods. Lewis Hine


Child Labor in the United States. https://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution/child-labor

Lewis Hine. https://iphf.org/inductees/lewis-hine/

National Child Labor Committee Collection. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/collections/national-child-labor-committee/about-this-collection/

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