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Child Labor Resources at the Catherwood Library and the Kheel Center: Other Workers

Child Labor in the Tiff Mines

"Children of tiff families work because it is either that or starvation.  Children ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen years of age are actually out of school in order to get money to buy a pair of shoes, a pair of overalls, a dress, or underclothing.  Mothers dig and scrap tiff, too.  […]  So the story goes; a people tugging at their own bootstraps, trying to lift themselves above a starvation level. They are pathetic in their helplessness and their hopelessness, There is almost complete failure on the part of public agencies to recognize their responsibility; in some instances, the official attitude is nothing more or less than complete indifference."

From:  Gibbons, Charles E. Child Labor in the Tiff Mines (New York: National Child Labor Committee, 1938), pg. 5, 6.  In: National Child Labor Committee Publications, 1907-1967.  #5242, Box 1, Folder:  "Department of Investigations, National Child Labor Committee, 1938."

Mine Workers: View of the Ewen Breaker

"View of the Ewen Breaker of the Pennsylvania Coal Co., South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 1911.” 
Lewis Hine, Photographer. Though boys 14 years old could legally work in the mines, younger boys worked illegally in the coal breakers outside the mines, sitting for hours on benches, bending over chutes to pull stones that would not burn from the long dusty stream of sharp coal chunks that rumbled beneath them.  Flying chunks endangered their eyes and they breathed dust all day living with chronic coughs, risking falling into the chute and being seriously injured or killed. [Source: Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. Photographs. Collection 5743 P box 14 folder 1q] 

A Skeleton in Industry’s Closet

"$460 for a violinist’s fingers! Harry, at 17, operating a punch press, cut off his second and third fingers at the first joint. He had been studying eight years to become a concert violinist and was at work to earn money to continue his training."

From:   Kelley, Florence, and Marguerite Marsh.  A Skeleton in Industry’s Closet. Youth’s Compensation for Industrial Injuries. January 1929. No. 4. Pg. 2.  In: National Consumers' League files, 1904-1955.  #5235, Box 1, Folder 9.

Newsies

“Candid shot of Newsie selling papers on street, 1912.”
Lewis Hine, photographer.  Newsboys and girls, sometimes as young as 6 years old, were often up and at work by 1 in the morning. They received no wages or commission, but bought bundles of papers from the publisher and lost money on any they could not sell. [Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs. Collection 5780 P N45 box 12 folder 2028a]

Artifical Flowers

"Family making artificial flower wreaths in their tenement house."
Ca. 1908. Lewis Hine, Photographer.  Hine wrote, Angelica is 3 years old.  She pulls apart the petals, inserts the center, and glues it to the stem, making 540 flowers a day for 5 cents. She often works until 8 pm. The other children ages 9, 11, and 14 work until 10 pm. [Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs. Collection 5780 P box 31 folder 12c]

Youth in Danger

"School, play, sunshine, all that make up a normal child’s life, were sacrificed in many cases for a pittance of $4.00, $5.00, or $6.00 a week. And in return what? An opportunity to work as long as sixty hours a week in a woolen or cotton mill, or unlimited hours in any other occupation; an opportunity to spend those hours where whirring belts and clattering machinery are an ever present menace to the bodies of heedless youth."

From:  Walsh, Marguerite.  Youth in Danger: A Study of Young Workers Injured in Georgia Industries.  In: Consumers' League of New York City. #5307, Box 49, Folder 29.

Newsie Oral History: Abraham Plotkin #1

As a young boy in Philadelphia, Plotkin started his first job selling newspapers with the help of his friend, Mike. [1 min. 3 sec.]

Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Oral History Collection 5780 OH 19

Newsie Oral History: Abraham Plotkin #2

After failing to sell his newspapers and recoup his 20 cent investment, Plotkin was cheered up by a cup of hot chocolate at Dennets’ Coffee Shop. [1 min. 14 sec.]

Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Oral History Collection 5780 OH 19

Newsie Oral History: Abraham Plotkin #3

Plotkin was selling newspapers by claiming there was a story about a murder. He was aggressively confronted about lying and was so frightened he began studying in earnest so he could announce the real news of the day. [2 min. 11 sec.]

Source: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Oral History Collection 5780 OH 19