Child Labor - IN THE MINES

Lewis Hine took this photograph during September of 1908. He describes it with these words: “Vance, a Trapper Boy, 15 years old. Has trapped for several years in a West Va. Coal mine. $.75 a day for 10 hours work. All he does is to open and shut this door: most of the time he sits here idle, waiting for the cars to come. On account of the intense darkness in the mine, the hieroglyphics on the door were not visible until plate was developed. Location: West Virginia.” Image online via the National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Click on it for a better view.


As he traveled throughout the country, documenting children who worked, Lewis Hine even descended into American mines. He gave the National Child Labor Committee plenty of ammunition with which to lobby for change.

Hine's pictures paint the scenes of a not-too-distant past.

  • Boys (often under the age of 14) who worked at the Sloss-Sheffield Steel and Iron Company were "greasers." Their job - carrying heavy pails of grease - often put them "in danger of being run over by the coal cars." The lad in front, Shorpy Higginbotham, was "a greaser on the tipple at Bessie Mine."
  • When Harry (the boy) met Sallie (the mule) in October of 1908 - near Grafton, West Virginia - both had heavy work to do at the Maryland Coal Company Mine.
  • Many boys - some with the faces of men - worked for the Pennsylvania Coal Company in South Pittston, Pennsylvania.
  • Young lads worked as "coupling boys" - like Harley Bruce, in 1910, at the tipple of Indian Mountain Mine near Jellico, Tennessee - and as "brake boys" - pictured here (in 1908) at Laura Mine in Red Star, West Virginia.

Working American children also labored in mills where they helped to produce all kinds of products from cloth to glassworks. Some of them even worked the night shift.

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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 MINES" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Feb 26, 2020.
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