United States Child Labor: Work Area--Textile Mills

Figure 1.--We believe this 1913 photograph is a Lewis Wickes Hine potograph. It shows some of the younger boys working in Brazos Valley Cotton Mills at West in South Texas. Charlie Lott was 13 years old according to a family record. Norman Vaughn was 12 years old and apparently under legal age.

The Industrial Revolution began with textile mills in Edgland duringbthe second half of the 19th century. Weaving was essentially a hand powered mechanical process. And the profuction of textiles was a much more important sector of the ecomomy than is the case today. Thus the industrial revolution began at textile mills. The same process played out in America with the American Industrial Revolution which began with textile mills in New England during the early-19th century. We have realitively limited information about child labot at these early mills. Even after photography appeared in the 1840s, textile mills and child labor was not something that early photographers focused on. We mostly see studio portraits. We do begin to see images after the turn-of-the 20th century and those images played an important role in the Progrssive Movement and the effort to address child labor in America. Here Louis Heins was very active in creating an archive of child labor images. We note image which seems to be the owner's or overseeer's son, but we can not yet confirm that. As northern states began to pass child labor laws and unions became more important, mill owners began moving south to states that did not have child labor laws or weak ones.


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Created: 11:14 PM 9/22/2010
Last updated: 11:14 PM 9/22/2010