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

  • Fiona Goodall / Getty for Lumix

    A Visit to Tuvalu, Surrounded by the Rising Pacific

    Fiona Goodall, a photographer working with Getty Images, recently visited the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, a country battling rising sea levels with limited resources.

  • Peter Morgan / Reuters

    Photos: 15 Years Since the 2003 Northeast Blackout

    On August 14, 2003, more than 50 million people across eight U.S. states and parts of Canada were left without power for days in the most widespread blackout in North American history.

  • FTCS (SS) Bob Nguyen / U.S. Navy

    Photos of the Week: Robot Cat, Purple Water, Tunnel of Love

    Missiles fly between Israel and Gaza, dizzying views in Hong Kong, a migrant family is reunited in Guatemala, a boisterous rodeo in Australia, wildfires intensify in California, and much more.

  • Tatan Syuflana / AP

    Images From the Lombok Island Earthquake

    On the Indonesian island of Lombok, near Bali, at least 250 deaths and many hundreds of injuries have been reported, and tens of thousands have been left homeless.