HAUNTING pictures show the terrible plight of American child labourers in the 1900s.
In 1908 Lewis Hine became a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee in order to achieve a single goal: ending child labour.
He travelled all over the United States with his camera in the belief that he could bring about real change if the public saw the appalling conditions that children were made to work in.
But factory owners who benefited from child labour threatened Hine, forcing him to go undercover disguised as a fire inspector or bible salesman.
The pictures that he captured show the dreadful life that these children were forced into.
Giles Edmund Newsom was 11 years old when he fell on to a spinning machine at the mill he worked in, which crushed and tore out two of his fingers.
Another boy, Frank P, had both of his legs cut off by a motor car in a coal mine in West Virginia when he was just 14.
And it wasn’t just the little lads that were put to work.
One of the photos shows Maud Daly, 5, and Grade Daly, 3, working for The Peerless Oyster Co. in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Another shows a nameless girl in the mill where she had been working for at least a year.
When Hine asked her how old she was, she replied: “I don’t know.”
She then later told him confidentially: “I’m not old enough to work, but I do just the same.”
Long hours and back-breaking work were the everyday reality for children in the early twentieth century.
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Census data from 1900 says that around 1,752,187 children in America between the ages of five and ten were in some kind of “gainful employment”.
That represents about one in every six children living in the states at the time.
Although Hine’s pictures were vital in changing public opinion towards reform of child labor laws, it wasn’t until the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that “oppressive child labor” was federally outlawed in America.
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