All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Indeed it does as early 1900s social activist and photographer Lewis Hine portrayed.
The age of the steam engine came and the demand for coal to feed the burners and engines of ships and trains came at a hefty price. Pictured are the breaker boys that separated good quality coal from impurities at a time when the world started guzzling fuel for commercial ventures and trades. Photographer Lewis Hine documented the life of the young boys who went to work at mills, mines and other hazardous places for the promise of a day’s pay of a measly amount of coin. The soot stained faces of the boys tell it all.
The National Child Labor Committee hired Hine in an effort to put a stop to the growing practice of big-scale companies in search of cheap labor and fast gains. The kids’ jobs were to separate the slate from the good coal in batches. The working conditions at these breakers were far from the school grounds or classrooms that money could buy back in the day. Skilled breaker boys would then ‘graduate’ to coal fields when they reached the right age and body strength.
Hine’s iconic documentation of the hazardous times in the everyday lives of child laborers in paved the way to the final abolishment of the practice and brought the problem into the public consciousness.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.