Before the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, child labor was still legal in the US, and businessmen used to prefer little kids as laborers due to their small size and inability to effectively organize against their employers. These children worked some of the most hazardous jobs and had no way out of it.
In the pictures below, you’ll see how little they were, yet how hard they used to work.
1. A group of newsboys have a smoke during their break in St. Louis, May 1910.
2. An exhausted newsboy sleeps on a pile of newspapers in a stairwell in Jersey City, New Jersey, circa 1912.
3. A sign outside of the N.Y. Button Works factory in New York City reads: "Wanted, Small Boys," circa 1916.
4. A group of young girls on a break from their jobs as oyster shuckers at a seafood canning company in Port Royal, South Carolina, in 1911.
5. Left: A young boy smokes a cigar while he waits for work at a cigar manufacturer in Tampa, Florida, in 1909. Right: A young girl grasps a handful of shrimp while working at a shrimping dock during the 1900s.
6. In Gary, West Virginia, a boy applies the brakes on a motor train, 1908. He performs this task for about 10 hours a day.
7. At the close of the day, men and boys stand inside a crowded cage to be transported up the mining shaft at the Pennsylvania Coal Company in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, in 1908.
8. Three young boys wait for a shipment of zinc ore to shovel at a mine near Aurora, Missouri, circa 1910.
9. Richard Pierce, a messenger at the Western Union on 723 Walnut Street in Wilmington, Delaware, in May 1910.
10. A pair of boys are seen working the spindle at a Georgia cotton mill, circa 1900.
11. Left: Portrait of a 13-year-old boy with a hand injury he received while working at a cotton mill in Weldon, North Carolina, circa 1914. Right: A young girl pauses for a portrait while working on spinning machines in 1908.
12. A girl undergoes a medical examination at the Bureau of Child Services in order to obtain a work certificate, circa 1915.
13. A teenage girl pauses from work as a spinner at a cotton mill in Lancaster, South Carolina, circa 1908.
14. Group portrait of child workers employed by the Breaker Pennsylvania Coal Company in Pittston, Pennsylvania, in 1908.
15. A small child carries loads of cans at a food packing plant in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1909.
16. A group of boys set up bowling pins at a late-night bowling alley in Trenton, New Jersey, circa 1909.
17. Left: An 11-year-old newspaper carrier smiles for a portrait in New Jersey in 1924. Right: A pair of exhausted girls stand for a portrait on a break from their jobs as garment workers in the Somerville, New Jersey, tenement district in 1912.
18. A 6-year-old girl working as a berry picker stands in a field in Maryland, circa 1909.
19. Several boys still at work at 9 p.m. during the night shift at the Indiana Glass Works in Indianapolis in 1908.
20. A young girl looks out of a factory window during her shift at a cotton mill in Lincolnton, North Carolina, circa 1908.