Featured image by The New York Public Library.
As industrialization in the United States increased following the Civil War, it was common to find American children working outside of the home to earn wages for themselves or their families. Children worked in many different industries and represented much of the labor force. It was not until the 1930s that Child Labor laws would be enacted to protect the rights of young children in the US.
The Breaker Boys
The boys in the photo above are one example of popular employment for youth. These “breaker boys” spent their days sitting along a conveyor belt, “breaking” away the impurities within the coal atop the belt. Working within a coal mine was often dangerous and attributed to poor health of the workers.
What do you think it was like to work as a “breaker boy”?
Child Labor Standards
Beginning in the 1900s, groups of people started advocating for an end to child labor. Eventually, the Children’s Bureau enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act, making it illegal for children under the age of 16 to work full time.
What do you think drove the Children’s Bureau to make this decision?
What can these newspaper articles tell us about some of the outcomes of this decision?
1. How has the United States coped with these impacts?
2. How has the United States evolved since this time?
3. What changes, if any, have been made to the child labor laws?