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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kids & Child Labor in America:1906-1914

In yesterday's post, we expressed how the family as a cohesive unit was better in 1914 vs the present, especially when it came to the purchasing power that one income provided to raise a family in comfort vs presently..

But to be fair, we didn't seek to imply that 100% of every aspect of life was better off 100 years ago vs the present..

Life is always a yin & yang; an ebb & flow
And for every thing we've lost as individuals or a society over time due to the steady march of 'progress', there's also been great improvements which can not be ignored even by those with the deepest longing to return to what was overall better days..

One such example was of child labor..

As we did yesterday, we're going to post some photos, all taken between 1906-1914 and make comments as needed
A pic of newsboys of 'newsies' who were the main distributors of newspapers to the general public from the mid-19th to the early 20th century in the United States.

They were usually homeless children that worked until very late at night and earned around 30 cents a day
The boys did not work for the newspapers but instead acted as independent agents, buying the papers they were to sell for that day and anything unsold, was on them to take the loss.

As one newspaper writer of the late 19th cent wrote about them, "You see them everywhere.... They rend the air and deafen you with their shrill cries. They surround you on the sidewalk and almost force you to buy their papers. They are ragged and dirty. Some have no coats, no shoes, and no hat."
Shoe-shining was another common occupation for children especially in urban areas..  They, like the newsies were usually homeless and self-employed.

The profession is still very common around the world today, especially in very poor parts of the globe where governments have tried to regulate by charging license fees for the children to work.
It was also very common for children to work in the coal mines as coal breakers which an exceedingly hard and dangerous job.

For pennies a day, crouched over the chutes, the boys would sit hour after hour, picking out the pieces of slate and other refuse from the coal as it rushes past to the washers.
From the cramped position they would have to assume, most of them become more or less deformed and bent-backed like old men and lived what ever shortened lives in that physical position.

Coal being physically hard objects, accidents to the hands, such as cut, broken, or crushed fingers, were common among the boys.  Sometimes they suffered worse fates than a mere broken hand or limb.
Children worked in all industrial businesses..  Here are boys and girls working side by side at a textile mill..
While boys were used predominantly in coal mines and newspaper delivery, girls were often hired as seamstresses, laundrettes and other domestic capacities..

The above pic shows these girls have had a very hard day and from their faces, a very hard life

We're pretty sure if they saw the modern teen girl with her typical laziness and refusal to do any physical exertion if it didn't involve looking 'fit' and constant phone texting, the 1914 girls would give the modern girls some hard slaps and slugs to the jaw..
The boy in middle is chewing on a cigar; we're guessing he's probably between 12-14 years old..

In today's society, the legal smoking age is 18 which while good because tobacco is addictive and causes cancer, is done because we don't think the modern teen is responsible or mature enough to use the product..

For better or worse, teens back then were not treated like children which most today are, and we're sure those boys in the pic were tougher and more mature than most 20 to 30-somethings today
Back in the 19th and early 20th century, it was very common to see whole families, especially immigrants working together at the same factory from dawn to dusk making enough combined to subsist and survive..
Children were not only exploited in the cities but in rural surroundings too..

These girls are picking berries..  It was also common to see them pick cotton, plow fields and work every aspect of a large farm like the slaves used to do..
In fact, it was much more cheap and profitable to have kids work then blacks because the slave owner  of days gone by had to pay to feed, clothe, shelter and provide medical attention to his chattel.

Free labor was never really 'free'.
The child laborer got a few pennies a day, their survival was their responsibility and like his/her sharecropper parents were as replaceable and disposable as a common AA battery

A lot of the pics are a bit on the shocking side compared to how we see and treat kids at present but you can see in many photos, these children are not soft like most are today..
 We as a society decided to make child labor illegal in 1938 with the Fair Labor Standards Act which overall was a good thing, but then we kept flipping the pendulum the other way..

And post World War II, every generation particularly males have become softer, gentler, more emasculated and in some cases unable to do their own laundry or cook their own meals without 'Mommy' to the rescue
The children of 100 years ago dealt with a lot of adversity and suffering but they also were rarely if ever bored..

Certainly they would have tried to get a drink to deal with all the tensions but we can't see the child of 1914 lazily spending his or her day smoking weed, eating munchies and watching cartoons or playing PlayStation..
And while it is good that child labor does not exist in this nation, we've gone too far the other way to the point where we regulate sex, marriage, cigarettes, alcohol, etc as if seventeen yr olds were still seven

Its been advantageous for modern society for whatever reason to keep the youth sheltered, stunted and absorbed in constant recreation and mental diversions.
Many of these children in these pics will ultimately become the parents of the youth that ultimately suffered through the Great Depression and served the nation in World War II

Collectively you had tough n' rough people, hardened by real life, raise their children to be equally tough n' rough which builds character
 And that can not be discounted as to why this nation grew and prospered and dealt with the biggest crisis tests in our nation's history..

And as for today's teen.. the one we cuddle and mollycoddle; and insulate from anything real..
They grow up and take the mantle like the drug addicted 50's & early 60's beatniks then late 60's hippies followed by the 80's shopping mall and 90's Nintendo generations..

And its difficult to harvest something vibrant when we plant bad crops.