Children in the Flower Field

And I should not have to remind you
that little time is given here
to rest on a wayside bench,
to stop and bend to the wildflowers,
or to study a bird on a branch—

–from “The Parade” by Billy Collins

As June builds up to summer’s start, lengthening sunny days mixed with some warm rain bring wildflowers’ sudden shoots and colorful blooms, seemingly overnight. In an instant, fallow fields, meadows, and roadside rights-of-way are flower-filled. This same recipe of sunshine and rain brings forth insects as well, some that prey on humans – black flies, mosquitoes, sweat bees – and some that make for good stalking – dragonflies, fireflies, June bugs. The 1904 photograph below of Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest child of Theodore and Edith, epitomizes this time of year for me as he’s intently engaged in June bug hunting amidst a meadow full of daisies (or Black-Eyed Susans, perhaps?) on the grounds of Sagamore Hill, the family’s Long Island home:

Photograph showing Quentin Roosevelt in a field of daisies at Sagamore Hill.

Quentin Roosevelt looking for June bugs. Photograph copyrighted by Edward S. Curtis, 1904. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23793

The contemporaneous stereograph view below of an unidentified toddler and unnamed collie shown in a similar wildflower-filled field is a 1905 copyright image. For me, this picture of child and dog in a meadow abloom evokes idyllic moments I’ve experienced as a boy and twice more decades later as a father of a son and a daughter:

[Child and collie in field of wildflowers]. Stereograph copyright by Underwood & Underwood, 1905.

[Child and collie in field of wildflowers]. Stereograph copyright by Underwood & Underwood, 1905. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c13692

The four Lewis Hine photographs below show children in a vastly different floral field: the 1908 New York City home-based family business making artificial flowers at a whopping 8 cents a gross shown at the top, left; and, the three other photos, from 1917, shot inside the Boston Floral Supply Co. factory as youths work at various tasks of florifacture, the flower manufacturing processes:

Artificial flower making at 8 cents a gross. Youngest child working is 5 years old. Location: New York, New York (State)

Artificial flower making at 8 cents a gross. Youngest child working is 5 years old, New York, New York. Photograph by Lewis W. Hine, January 1908. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/nclc.04073

Mary Donahue, 15 years old (on right of photo), curling petals at the Boston Floral Supply Co., 347-357 Cambridge Street. Said to be the only flower factory in Massachusetts. Pauline Steele, 15 years old (on Mary's right) makes carnations. Beatrice Sicco, 15 years old (left side of photo), curling. Location: Boston, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.

Mary Donahue, 15 years old (on right of photo), curling petals, … Pauline Steele, 15 years old (on Mary’s right) makes carnations. Beatrice Sicco, 15 years old (left side of photo), curling, Boston, Mass. Photograph by Lewis W. Hine, 29 January 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/nclc.05163

Corrinne Le May, 15 years old, bunching sweet peas at the Boston Floral Supply Co., 347-357 Cambridge Street. Said to be the only flower factory in Massachusetts. Location: Boston, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.

Corrinne Le May, 15 years old, bunching sweet peas at the Boston Floral Supply Co., Boston, Mass. Photograph by Lewis W. Hine, 29 January 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/nclc.05162

15-year old boy sorting cycas leaves, Boston Floral Supply Co., 347-357 Cambridge Street. Said to be the only flower factory in Massachusetts. Location: Boston, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.

15-year old boy sorting cycas leaves, Boston Floral Supply Co., Boston, Mass. Photograph by Lewis W. Hine, 29 January 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/nclc.05195

Hine’s photographs for the National Child Labor Committee illuminate a grimmer early 20th century phenomenon of children up-to-their-elbows in flowers.

Learn More

Photomechanical print showing school children collecting flowers in a meadow.

A primary school in the field. Photograph by France Benjamin Johnston, 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c38995

Photograph shows a little girl wearing a long white dress blowing on a dandelion.

Dandelions. Photograph by Ema Spencer, circa 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3f05983

4 Comments

  1. Francisco Campos
    June 12, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    It is so beautful, thanks for that.

  2. Stew Jenkins
    June 13, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Jeff,
    Great post! I love the juxtaposition of kids in fields of flowers with kids making fake flowers in factories. I’d be interested in seeing a progression of flower photos that moved up through the decades. Hope all is well in your corner of the world.

  3. dpm
    June 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    The arts expand and deepen visible learning. LOC has been a source for my instructional units for several years now. Thank you for making the resources teacher friendly.
    `namaste

  4. Gay Colyer
    June 20, 2016 at 10:20 am

    A lovely post, Jeff. A tribute to summer with the fields of blooms. As usual, the Hine photos tell a much larger story about children, families and work. But they also show how the demand was met to bring some of the “outside” into our homes. Great images!

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