Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago

At the start of the 20th century, labor in America was in short supply, and laws concerning the employment of children were rarely enforced or nonexistent. While Americans at the time supported the role of children working on family farms, there was little awareness of the other forms of labor being undertaken by young hands. In 1908, photographer Lewis Hine was employed by the newly-founded National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) to document child laborers and their workplaces nationwide. His well-made portraits of young miners, mill workers, cotton pickers, cigar rollers, newsboys, pin boys, oyster shuckers, and factory workers put faces on the issue, and were used by reformers to raise awareness and drive legislation that would protect young workers or prohibit their employment. After several stalled attempts in congress, the NCLC-backed Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938 with child labor provisions that remain the law of the land today, barring the employment of anyone under the age of 16.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Eric Thayer / Reuters

    Photos: The Woolsey Fire Leaves Devastation in Malibu, California

    The Woolsey Fire and the nearby Hill Fire have forced the evacuation of nearly 250,000 residents from their homes near the Pacific Coast in California’s Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

  • Eric Miller / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Midterm Elections, Flaming Barrels, Diwali Lanterns

    A visit to the Swiss Museum of Transport, NATO soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan, autumn colors pass their peak in the North, Bonfire Night across England, and much more

  • Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty

    The Camp Fire Ravages Paradise, California

    Within 24 hours, the Camp Fire has burned more than 20,000 acres, and has virtually destroyed the town of Paradise.

  • Gregory Boissy / AFP / Getty

    Blue-Wave Photos

    I’ve been hearing a lot about a “blue wave” in the news lately, so I thought I should do my best to cover this tidal force with news photos.