Child labor in one form or another has existed in America from our beginning. As the country was mostly agricultural, much of the work involved a family’s farm, or in the case of slaves, on plantations. With the advent of industrialization that began to change. In the early part of the 20th century when the numbers of child laborers peaked, state laws varied but there was a growing resistance to children being employed in the often hazardous work. Reform movements grew and labor standards were
improved. It also didn’t hurt that child labor reforms were related to the increasing prominence of labor unions. Eventually organizations like the National Consumers Union (est.1899) and the National Child Labor Committee (est. 1904) were established to reform child labor laws.
This culminated in the most sweeping federal law touching on child labor rules with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (Pub.L. 75-718) (FLSA, ch. 676, 52 Stat. 1060, June 25, 1938, 29 U.S.C. ch.8).
The Prints & Photgraphs division has images taken by Lewis Hine (1874-1940) an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), documenting the working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. The collection consists of more than 5,100 photographic prints and 355 glass negatives along with the NCLC records.
Special thanks to our guest author today, Business Reference Specialist Ellen Terrell.