Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Child Labor in Charlotte

That National Child Labor Committee was formed in 1904 and chartered by Congress in 1907. When I was researching the NCLC and saw that it was chartered I wondered what that meant. I see now it can mean a lot of things. Mainly, it appears to mean that it is an entity recognized by the Congress as having some importance. The chartering of a group, according to a 2004 report by the Congressional Research Service, means “is that it tends to provide an `official' imprimatur to their activities, and to that extent it may provide them prestige and indirect financial benefit.” It’s a way, I guess, for our government to indirectly endorse the activities of a group. I guess NAMBLA or a Neo Nazi party wouldn’t receive a charter from Congress. The document from the Congressional Research Service uses the word “eleemosynary,” that being lawyerese for charitable or philanthropic.

In 1908 the NCLC hired Lewis Hine as a photographer. They sent him out into the country to document child laborers. He did this for nearly ten years. He would often have to sneak into factories under false pretenses in order to photograph child workers on the sly. He put himself in danger in order to document the abuses of these children. He is credited as being the first to use photography as a documentary tool. His work help shock the nation into changing and enforcing child labor laws.

Recently the Library of Congress posted on their website a huge collection of Hine's photographs. Naturally, I searched to see if I could find any photographs from the Charlotte, NC area. There were several.

I was going to post more about child labor in North Carolina but this site is way ahead of me.

Here a few from around Charlotte. All of these were taken in January 1909.

Tallest girl, Kate McManus. Smallest (next) Zorobell Hatley; (next) Louis Blanchard (next) Edith McManus.

Comment by Hine: "They said they had been in mill work only few weeks or months. Evidently they had been quizzed before and were "wise.""

Atherton Mill. Location: Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Here is an example of Hine photographing child laborers in defiance of the mill authorities.

Comments by Hine:
Atherton Mill, Doffer boys Charlotte, N .C. Photo taken during absence of Supt. and contrary to his orders. Tallest boy--Lester Blunt. Been in the mill work 2 years. Middle boy--Eb Saddlefield. Been in mill work 3 years. Boy on the right hand end,--Roscoe Simpson. Been in mill work 3 years. Location: Charlotte, North Carolina.

atherton mill doffer boys

One of the smallest doffers in the Atherton Mill, Charlotte, N.C. Others nearly as small working there. Location: Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Will Freeman. Been in mill work 4 years. Atherton Mill in Charlotte, NC.

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Comments by Hine:
A few of the hands on the night shift in Highland Park Mill No. 3, Charlotte, N.C. 10:30 P.M. January 7/09. 100 hands in all. Ten children as small as smallest in photo to some smaller. One chap (48 in. high) was kept out of photo. Looked 9 years old. Boy on right hand and (by barrel) has been in mill work 9 years ; half of it at night. said "Rather work nights." Boss of spinning room began at 8 years and is now 30. Location: Charlotte, North Carolina.

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I guess we should be thankful that American children don't have to work under conditions like this anymore. That brutal practice is now exported. With the push for deregulation and the lowering of wages we may yet get back to the good old days here. Fingers crossed!

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