Photography exhibit depicts child labor in NC during the early 1900s

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Photo Division
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Photo Division

From the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

Peering from across a century, many children look older than their years in photographs captured by Lewis Hines in the mill villages of Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Rowan and other North Carolina counties. The 40 images in the free exhibit, The Photography of Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor in North Carolina, 1908-1918, on loan from the N.C. Museum of History,will be shown at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Western Office June 23 to Oct. 3, during regular hours Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and in special evening and Saturday programs.

Hine captured the harsh realities of life for the young textile workers, showing girls operating warping machines and boys covered in lint after long hours as doffers and sweepers in a Hickory mill. In 1908, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) hired photographer Lewis Hine to document the horrendous working conditions of young workers across the United States. That same year, he began visiting North Carolina’s textile mills where about a quarter of all workers were under age 16.

His photos began to be published within months and appeared in magazines and on posters the NCLC displayed at conferences, legislative hearings and other gatherings. In 1910, North Carolina strengthened its child labor laws and the first Federal child labor laws were passed in 1916. However it would take another 20 years before a law banning the sale of products manufactured by child labor was passed.   

For additional information please call (828) 296-7230, email jeff.futch@ncdcr.gov, or visit http://www.ncdcr.gov/westernoffice. The Western Office is located at 176 Riceville Road, Asheville, N.C, and within the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

About the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources 
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s cultural resources to build the social, cultural and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDCR’s mission is to enrich lives and communities by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history and libraries in North Carolina that will spark creativity, stimulate learning, preserve the state’s history and promote the creative economy. NCDCR was the first state organization in the nation to include all agencies for arts and culture under one umbrella.

Through arts efforts led by the N.C. Arts Council, the N.C. Symphony and the N.C. Museum of Art, NCDCR offers the opportunity for enriching arts education for young and old alike and spurring the economic stimulus engine for our state’s communities. NCDCR’s Divisions of Archives and Records, Historical Resources, State Historic Sites and State History Museums preserve, document and interpret North Carolina’s rich cultural heritage to offer experiences of learning and reflection. NCDCR’s State Library of North Carolina is the principal library of state government and builds the capacity of all libraries in our state to develop and to offer access to educational resources through traditional and online collections including genealogy and resources for people who are blind and have physical disabilities.

NCDCR annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council and the State Archives. NCDCR champions our state’s creative industry that accounts for more than 300,000 jobs and generates nearly $18.5 billion in revenues. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.

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