I Think I'm Getting The Black Lung, Pop
March 2, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

The harrowing lives of child miners in the early 1900's.

The layout on that site kind of blows, but I still found the photos very interesting.
posted by gman (28 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
And if it hadn't been for labor unions and strikers, it would still be like this.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:12 AM on March 2, 2012 [34 favorites]

This is the sort of thing I bring up whenever oldsters start talking about how much better childhood was in the old days.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:13 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Miners of all ages had a crap time of it.

They still do.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

O sweet, unregulated capitalism! See what glorious personal freedoms you gave us!

(Thanks for this, gman.)
posted by scody at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's like that NOW, for children in some countries. Or children of some ethnicities in this country.
posted by DU at 10:22 AM on March 2, 2012

And now they slave away at Minecraft. How times have changed...
posted by GavinR at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2012

It couldn't have been that tough - let's remember, these individuals freely negotiated the terms of their employment contracts with the mining companies, so they must have wanted to do hazardous backbreaking work for pennies. Haven't you guys read Lochner?
posted by facetious at 10:27 AM on March 2, 2012 [14 favorites]

Aaaand now I'm a communist. Thanx.
posted by hellojed at 10:31 AM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's like that NOW, for children in some countries. Or children of some ethnicities in this country.

Satire indeed.
posted by Talez at 10:38 AM on March 2, 2012

Nice post. I agree, those are some great photos.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2012

My grandfather was born in Shamokin, PA and worked in the mine there when he was young. He got out of there as soon as he could and eventually became a New York City policeman. I still have family there who until very recently lived in the same house my grandfather was born in.

I went there with him shortly before he passed away (in 2004, aged 95) and he pointed out to me the mine entrance where he used to go to work, now boarded up and abandoned. It's sobering to think that in, say, 1923 or so he must have looked just like those kids.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:41 AM on March 2, 2012

Aaaand now I'm a communist. Thanx.

Funny you mention that, hellojed:
RFK visited a mine in Chile where nearly all the workers were Communists. The U.S. embassy had specifically kept the mine off his schedule, and local mine officials begged him not to go down the shaft, but he did anyway. The mineshaft went down approximately a mile out under the ocean floor. RFK ventured all the way to the end of the shaft and the workers were ecstatic to see him.

When he finally emerged from the mine, RFK remarked to a companion: "If I worked in this mine, I'd be a Communist, too."
posted by joe lisboa at 10:44 AM on March 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

It's like that NOW, for children in some countries.


Watch "The Devil's Miner" available through netflix on demand.
posted by calamari kid at 10:49 AM on March 2, 2012

Remember: Newt Gingrich thinks child labor laws are stupid.

Ditto Ron Swanson.
posted by Talez at 10:51 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about: The harrowing lives of child miners in the early 1900's.

Seems that it didn't matter how young you were back then, it still sucked!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:02 AM on March 2, 2012

Some great (though depressing) photos.
But I do want to put in a word for the poor mules and ponies. Of course it is more important to worry about the health and safety of children (and in some cases, adults), but I imagine those mules and ponies had quite miserable and painful short lives as well. (And still do, in many places.)
posted by Glinn at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

See also the great Shorpy historical photo archive, named in honor of early 1900's child miner Shorpy Higginbotham
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Glück auf, Glück auf, der Steiger kommt.
Und er hat sein helles Licht bei der Nacht,
schon angezündt’

Schon angezündt’! Das wirft seinen Schein,
und damit so fahren wir bei der Nacht,
ins Bergwerk ein

Ins Bergwerk ein, wo die Bergleut’ sein,
die da graben das Silber und das Gold bei der Nacht,
aus Felsgestein

Der Eine gräbt das Silber, der and're gräbt das Gold,
doch dem schwarzbraunen Mägdelein, bei der Nacht,
dem sein wir hold

Ade, nun ade! Lieb’ Schätzelein!
Und da drunten in dem tiefen finst’ren Schacht, bei der Nacht,
da denk’ ich dein

Und kehr ich heim, zum Schätzelein,
dann erschallet des Bergmanns Gruß bei der Nacht,
Glück auf, Glück auf!
posted by brokkr at 11:34 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Man, it's crazy how people will treat other people (and ponies!) in the interest of turning a buck. It's hard to even get my head around why it would ever be preferable to lose workers instead of installing basic safety measures so the company could retain them and keep them working.

> Also, yes, Afroblanco, you're right! Your thimble-sized restatement of this incessantly long caption was insightfully spot-on:

In early 20th-century America, in large part thanks to the work of Lewis Hine, labor reforms were set in motion to raise the minimum age at which children could work and lower their working hours. There were setbacks, however, with a 1916 law deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just two years after it had been enacted. After a long struggle, the Fair Labor Standards Act was finally passed in 1938. Under the terms of this act, schooling and health were prioritized for any children working below the ages of 15 and 16, while no one under 18 could be employed in treacherous jobs like mining. A minimum wage and limits on the number of hours children could work were also put in place.

How on earth did you read that and see all the photos in a single minute?! You're my new hero.
posted by heyho at 12:00 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

From a little earlier (1840's) in the UK:
The mixture of terror and of fatalism of the children comes through in laconic reports. An eight-year-old girl, employed for thirteen hours a "day", to open and close traps: "I have to trap without a light, and I'm scared...Sometimes I sing when I've light, but not in the dark; I dare not sing then."
(Source. See also: He related the story of a boy... about child labour in the mills).
posted by titus-g at 12:49 PM on March 2, 2012

I thought all children were minors? Oh hold on.
posted by w0mbat at 12:59 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is why I'm in favor of unions. Miners have always needed representation, safety laws, better hours, etc. They still do. I'm thankful for Joe Hill and any every labor organizer who fought for organized labor; they're heroes, sung or un-sung.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by theora55 at 3:21 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's still a whole lot of people who think the good old days were morally superior to now, and they are typically aware of child labor when they assert it, which makes them scumbags.
posted by Brian B. at 3:25 PM on March 2, 2012

Close the coalhouse, lad, there's bairns inside.

Bairns here is a reference to Aberfan, but it might as well not be.
posted by Jehan at 5:08 PM on March 2, 2012

This is a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing.
posted by 4ster at 7:31 PM on March 2, 2012

The NCLC’s investigative photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940) took on the important mission of traveling the United States to document the working conditions of children. Hine carried out this work from 1908 to 1924, with the 5,100 and more photographs he took creating a body of evidence about the dark underbelly of the Industrial Revolution – a period whose seeming success was based on the broken backs, lungs and lives of society’s weakest members, children.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was finally passed in 1938. It took over 30 years for the politicians to realize this was a problem?

Very informative, thanks.
posted by JujuB at 8:43 PM on March 2, 2012

Amazing and harrowing. Seeing these pictures makes me realise how lucky I was never to have to live and work like that, that I got a free education and free healthcare as a child.
posted by marienbad at 4:31 AM on March 3, 2012

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