Not only did American children work in the canneries, some children also worked on the boats which caught the food that canneries would preserve. Lewis Hine took this photograph during January of 1909. He describes it with these words: “A young oyster fisher [?] Others smaller employed in busy season. Apalachicola, Fla. Randsey Summerford says he starts out at 4 A.M. one day, is out all night in the little oyster boat and back next day some time. Gets a share of the proceeds. Said he was 16 years old and been at it 4 years. Lives in Georgia and is here 6 months a year. Location: Apalachicola, Florida.” Image online via the National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Click on it for a better view.


From sardine canneries (in Eastport, Maine where children did dangerous work) to shrimp and oyster canneries (in places like Biloxi, Mississippi and Bluffton, South Carolina where children and African-Americans worked side-by-side), child labor was a pervasive part of American life during the first decades of the 20th century.

The photos of Lewis Hine take us back in time to observe working American children:

  • Five-year-old Preston and 6-year-old Elsie Shaw (note her missing left arm) worked (in 1911) as cartoners while other youngsters served as cutters or fish cleaners for Maine's Seacoast Canning Company.
  • Every member of the Peter Elvis family, except the baby, worked for the Barataria Canning Company in Biloxi, Mississippi. Pictured at their New Orleans home in 1911, Jo (the 7-year-old boy) worked Saturdays and Alma (a 3-year-old girl) was "learnin' the trade," according to her mother.
  • Cora Croslen, and her 3-year-old daughter Alma, both worked at Barataria. They were originally from Baltimore, Maryland.
  • The "shucking boss" supervised as women and children shucked oysters in Dunbar, Louisiana.
  • Maude Daly (age 5) and her sister Grace (age 3) each picked about one pot of shrimp a day (in 1911) for the Peerless Oyster Company in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.

Today, men who work in America's coal mines do some of the hardest work in the country. During the first decades of the 20th century, before modern equipment made a hard job a bit easier, young boys toiled underground in those same Appalachian mines.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jun 29, 2019

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"IN THE CANNERIES" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Jan 19, 2020.
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