Photos Document a Shameful Part of our History

September of this year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act that sought to outlaw (or at least severely regulate) child labor. While it was passed, it was struck down two years later on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to impose federal law on something that each state should regulate themselves (Wow, how far we’ve come!). It was, however, instrumental in fueling a reform so that today, children can’t legally be employed (the fact that many, many children are, none the less forced to work because of human trafficking, is another matter all together).

Lewis Hine was instrumental in raising awareness to the plight of so many children, sometimes as young as 4 years old who were forced to work, often in grueling conditions which wouldn’t even be allowed for adults today, through his photos. For 16 years he traveled across the US taking photos of exploited children like this one:


This boy is 5 years old and this is the second year that he’s been working picking shrimp, which means that he started this job at age 4.

You can view a collection of the Lewis Hine photos and read the stories behind each one on the Atlas Obscura website.

For an even larger collection of Lewis Hine Child Labor photos visit

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