These compassionate portraits of newsies helped reform child labor

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Portraits of early 1900s American newsies, newsboys (Mashable)
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These compassionate portraits of newsies helped reform child labor

March 1913

"One of America’s youngest newsboys. Four years old and regular seller. Tampa, Florida."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

March 1909

"Some of the newsboys returning Sunday papers. Many of them had been out since 5 and 6 a.m. Hartford, Connecticut."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

March 1909

"(Called “Bologna”) Tony Casale, 11 years old, been selling 4 years. Sells until 10 p.m. sometimes. His paper boss told me the boy had shown him the marks on his arm where his father had bitten him for not selling more papers. He (the boy) said 'Drunken men say bad words to us.' Hartford, Connecticut."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 9, 1910

"11 a.m. Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. St. Louis, Missouri."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

Aug. 1, 1924

"Patsy, 8-year-old newsboy. Says he makes 50 cents a day. Newark, New Jersey."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 1910

"A Pool Room Branch (Chouteau & Manchester). These boys were playing pool and smoking in the pool room while waiting for papers. The smallest boy is 9 years old and sells until 9 p.m. St. Louis, Missouri."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

Aug. 26, 1924

"Another young newsboy. Hartford, Connecticut."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

March 1909

"Twelve-year-old newsboy, Hyman Alpert, been selling three years. Spends evenings in Boys Club. New Haven, Connecticut."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 1915

"Freddie Kafer, a very immature little newsie selling Saturday Evening Posts and newspapers at the entrance to the State Capitol. He did not know his age, nor much of anything else. He was said to be 5 or 6 years old. Nearby, I found Jack who said he was 8 years old, and who was carrying a bag full of Saturday Evening Posts, which weighed nearly ½ of his own weight. The bag weighed 24 pounds, and he weighed only 55 pounds. He carried this bag for several blocks to the car. Said he was taking them home. Sacramento, California."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

August 1908

"John Howell, makes 75 cents some days. Begins at 6 a.m., Sundays. (Lives at 215 West Michigan Street). Indianapolis, Indiana."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

September 1911

"Hyman, six year old newsie. Another six year old newsie said he sold until 6 p.m. Lawrence, Massachusetts."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 1915

"Nine-year-old newsie and his seven-year-old brother 'Red.' Tough specimen of Los Angeles newsboys. Los Angeles, California."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

March 1909

"Have been selling two years. Youngest, Yedda Welled, is 11-years-old. Next, Rebecca Cohen, is 12. Next, Rebecca Kirwin, is 14. Hartford, Connecticut."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 1910

"Johnnie Merkle, 6-year-old newsie. Home of Johnnie Merkle, 5110 North Broadway. Father owns this home and a butcher shop. Johnnie’s brother owns and runs a nickelodeon. St. Louis, Missouri."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 1910

"Francis Lance, 5-years-old, 41-inches high. Sells regularly on Grand Avenue. St. Louis, Missouri."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

May 7, 1910

"Jefferson Street Gang of newsboys 10 p.m. over campfire in corner lot behind billboard. Jefferson Street near Olive. Witness E.N. Clopper. St. Louis, Missouri."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

November 1912

"Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers. Jersey City, New Jersey."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

December 1909

"Max Schwartz (8-years-old) and Jacob Schwartz, 163 Howard Street. Sell until 10 p.m. sometimes. Newark, New Jersey."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

Oct. 8, 1910

"Jerald Schaitberger of 416 West 57th Street, who helps an older boy sell papers until 10 p.m. on Columbus Circle. 7-years-old. 9:30 p.m. New York, New York."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

February 1908

" 1 a.m. near the World Building, ready to start out. Two of the sleepers, larger boy, Abraham Jachnes, 13-years-old. Newsboys Lodging House, 14 Chambers Street. Has not been home for 6 months because step-mother has been trying to put him into a House of Refuge. Could not get name of smaller boy, but he was younger, probably 11-years-old. These boys are hanging about and snatching an occasional sleep in sheltered spots. New York, New York."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

Feb. 12, 1908

"2 a.m. Papers just out. Boys starting out on morning round. Ages 13 years and upward. At the side door of Journal Building near Brooklyn Bridge. New York, New York."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

June 13, 1910

"Willie Cohen, 1210 South 6th Street, 8 years of age, newsboy, attends John Hay School. Was selling papers at Philadelphia & Reading Terminal 10:30 a.m. Said it was Jewish holiday. Max Rafalovizht, 1300 South 6th Street, 8-years-old, attends John Hay School, was selling papers at Philadelphia & Reading Terminal. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

September 1913

"Eight-year-old newsie. Many youngsters get up early to sell papers. One 10-year-old starts out at 3 a.m. every day and goes to school. Waco, Texas."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

February 1910

"Newsie, selling before school, 7 a.m. Quito Scentola, 13-years-old, 20 Pennsylvania Avenue, been selling papers four years. Rochester, New York."

Image: Lewis Hine/Library of Congress

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In the early 20th century, Lewis Hine photographed thousands of child laborers in the name of progressive social reform, including factory workers and miners. Newsies were a favorite subject. Hine did not have to sneak past factory bosses or photograph surreptitiously, allowing for less rushed photos and more in-depth interviews with his subjects.

Hine's photographs, mostly shot under the auspices of the National Child Labor Committee, were constructed as arguments for labor reform. Every individual portrait and story captured the squalid conditions and bright potential of each young worker, and the amassed collection of thousands of similar images created a call for change that was hard to ignore.

When photographing newsies and other young workers, Hine often lowered the camera to their eye level to accord them dignity and respect, while still capturing their vulnerability and exploitation.

Hine engaged his subjects in conversation, scribbling notes on a pad in his pocket with one hand while operating his camera with the other and estimating his subjects' heights and weights.

The powerful photographs that Hine made in collaboration with his subjects became the face of the movement against child labor, and helped raise widespread public support for reform.

Curation: Rebekah Burgess Abramovich

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