Lewis Hine: Shocking Photos of Child Labor in America

Lewis Hine provides an example for how art can change our society for the good of human being. In the early 1900s after the civil war and the start of the industry revolution, demands for working labor increased and many children were taken away from their childhood life to work as slaves in many of factors across America.

The number of working children under 15 years old increased from 1.5 million in 1890 to 2 million in 1910. The children barely find good childhood environment or education. The demands to end the child labor, also known as child slavery, started at the early 1900s when the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC)worked to achieve the goal of ending the child labor (check Heart-tugging Photos of Nomadic Children in Streets of London in 1980s).

The NCLC assigned the job to document this situation to Lewis Hine, a school teacher and photographer who worked for the committee as investigative photographer. For more than 15 years Lewis Hine travelled to most of the cities in United States and took photos for all the child labor in America as he stated:

“There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work.”

Lewis Hine visited coal mines, textile miles, canneries and meatpacking houses to document the children suffering through his photography. Lewis Hine’s photographs were not taken that easy as he had to visit factories where the managers did not want the public to know about its working conditions. All his photos were original with no retouching, Lewis Hine described his photos as “double-sure that my photo data was 100% pure–no retouching or fakery of any kind.”

Also check:

Child slavery
5:00 A.M. Sunday May 8th, 1910. Starting out with papers from McIntyres Branch. Chestnut & 16th Sts.,. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. (LOC)
Lewis Hines photos
Bootblacks in and around City Hall Park, New York City – July 25, 1924. Location: New York, New York (State) (LOC)
Lewis Hines photos
Freddie Kafer, a very immature little newsie selling Saturday Evening Posts and newspapers at the entrance to the State Capitol…. Sacramento, California (LOC)

Lewis Hines photos

Lewis Hines photos
Jennie Rizzandi, 9 year old girl, helping mother and father finish garments in a dilapidated tenement, 5 Extra Pl., N.Y.C. … (LOC)
lewis hine's photography
Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters a day at Dunbar. Tends the baby when not working … Location: Dunbar, Louisiana (LOC)
lewis hine's photography
Charlie Foster has a steady job in the Merrimack Mills. School Record says he is now ten years old. His father told me that he could not read, and still he is putting him into the mill. See Hine report. Location: Huntsville, Alabama. (LOC)
lewis hine's photography
Glass works. Midnight. Location: Indiana. (LOC)
Child slavery
Manuel, the young shrimp-picker, five years old, and a mountain of child-labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. Dunbar, Lopez, Dukate Company. Location: Biloxi, Mississippi. (LOC)
child slavery
This little girl like many others in this state is so small she has to stand on a box to reach her machine … Location: Loudon, Tennessee (LOC)

By 1916, the NCLC efforts supported with Lewis Hine work and photographs were successful to help establishing child labor standards. As a result for these activities, the number of child labor was cut to nearly half. The above Lewis Hine’s photographs that was a reason to stop the suffering of many children in American and help returning to them their childhood life. However, Lewis Hine did not got the appropriate appreciation in his life as he died in poverty and neglected by many, Leiws Hine’s photos started to gain increasing popularity and appreciating after his death.

All the Lewis Hine’s photographs in this post are a courtesy of the Library of the Congress.


About Tuts team

This is Photographytuts editorial team. Photographytuts.com provides Photoshop tutorials for photographers, photography basics, Photoshop actions, resources, and photography marketing tips.

View all posts by Tuts team →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *