Children were drawn into the labor force throughout most of American history. However, it was not up until the early decades of the 20 century during the Industrial revolution that child labor peaked drastically.
This period witnessed thousands of children being forced to forgo their education and, instead, toil long hours under impoverished conditions in various industries.
Children were regarded as an asset to their employers as they were considered cheap labor, and their size and agility allowed them to maneuver themselves through narrow parts of machines. Besides being forced to work in factories, mines, and farms, many children, some as young as five, were also recruited as messengers, newsboys, peddlers and in various other menial jobs.
Lewis Wickes Hine, an esteemed American photographer and sociologist used his camera to capture the plight of these children in the labor market.
As an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, Hines began documenting in 1908 the inhuman conditions that American children were forced to endure in the work force. His photographs not only motivated the society to campaign against child labor but also urged lawmakers to introduce reforms for the protection of these children.
Check out the slideshow here to view some of Hine's photographs that brought to light child labor in the early 20th century America.