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Lewis Hine photographing children, photograph, ca. 1910

Trained as a sociologist, Lewis Hine used photography, along with interviews and other research, for social reform. He sometimes gained access to factories by claiming he was an inspector, a salesman, or an industrial photographer, but then focused his camera on the children working there. He heard their stories and noted their ages, heights, wages, and years in school.

George Eastman Museum

Lewis Hine photographing children, photograph, ca. 1910

Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor

Although some states had laws against employment of juveniles, millions of American children worked in agriculture and industry in the early twentieth century. In 1904 progressive reformers founded the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), which Congress chartered in 1907. To raise awareness of the abuses of child labor, the NCLC hired sociologist Lewis Hine to photograph children working in fields, factories, mines, and city streets. His photos and reports, produced between 1908 and 1924, fueled public opinion and inspired Congress to enact national child labor legislation.

There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. . . . The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profit from their work.

Lewis Hine, “The High Cost of Child Labor,” Child Labor Bulletin, 1914