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Child Labor

A selected bibliography of materials in the Wirtz Labor Library Collection

Of Interest


Early Child Labor Issues

U.S. Congress, Report on the Condition of Woman and Child Wage-Earners in the United States, 61st Congress, 2d session, 1910. (A Bureau of Labor Study published in 19 volumes.) This is a comprehensive historical and socio-economic study compiled by the Bureau. It is considered one of the classic resource documents on child and women labor abuses.

U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor,Child Labor in the United States, Bulletin #69, 1907.

Raymond Fuller, The Meaning of Child Labor. Chicago, 1922.

Hamilton, Alexander, Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the Subject of Manufacturers in the U.S. Philadelphia, 1824. One of the founders of the Republic, Hamilton set forth his ideas on how commerce/business should operate in the new nation. Hamilton's pro-industry bent contrasted with Jefferson's ideas for a nation of farmers and mechanics (workers). Hamilton's encouragement of the use of child labor is extremely cogent to the development of our economic system.

Abbott, Edith, Women in Industry: A Study in American Economic History. New York, 1910. Abbott was a famous labor reformer of the age of industrial capitalism. The chapter on 'Child Labor before 1870" is especially pertinent to the understanding of the period.

U.S. Department of Labor, Growth of Labor Law in the United States. Washington, 1967. A valuable resource on the development, growth, and evolution of child labor legislation. It provides enough basic information to allow researchers to expand on the findings contained therein.

Child Labor in the Age of Industrial Capitalism

Adams, Thomas S., Labor Problems: A Textbook. New York, 1905. An economic analysis on the employment of women and children, arguing that it does not have to be a system of exploitation and abuse. Contributing authors are Helen Sumner and Richard T. Ely, the latter the first president of the American Economic Association.

Clopper, Edward, Child Labor in City Streets. New York, 1912. Clopper, an official of the National Child Labor Committee, studies the newsboys, bootblacks, and other children working in the urban Northeast.

Hutchins, Grace, Children Under Capitalism. New York, 1933. A socialist view of the evils of child labor under our economic system. Considerable funding for International Publishers came directly from the Comintern.

U.S. Department of Labor, Prohibition of Night Work of Young Persons. Washington, 1913. One of the many Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports on child labor. Refer to the following BLS Bulletins in this series:

  • #8 Conciliation and Arbitration in the Boot and Shoe Industry (1897)
  • #10 Work and Wages of Men, Women, and Children: Conditions of Negroes in Various Cities (1897)
  • #13 The Italians in Chicago: The Anthracite Mine Laborers (1897)
  • #15 The Trade Union Label (1898)
  • #37 A Social Study of the "Oyster Negro" (1901)
  • #52 Child Labor in the U.S. (1904)
  • #56 The Influence of Trade Unions on Immigrants (1905)
  • #72 Italian, Slavic, and Hungarian Unskilled Immigrant Laborers in the U.S. (1907)
  • #96 Employment of Children in Maryland (1911)
  • #118 Ten-Hour Maximum Working-Day for Women and Young Persons (1913)
  • #128 Wages and Hours of Labor in the Cotton, Woolen, and Silk Industries, 1890-1912 (1913)
  • #217 Effect of Workmen's Compensation in Diminishing the Necessity of Industrial Employment of Women and Children (1918)

The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 1911, Uniform Child Labor Laws. Philadelphia, 1911. The transcript of the proceedings of the 7th Conference of the National Child Labor Committee; it is a wealth of information on all the state activities of the committees' locals. Felix Adler, Chairman of the NCLC gave the keynote address entitled, "Child Labor a Menace to Civilization".

Child Labor Bulletins (1912-1920). See also the NCLC Proceedings and Hearings (1904-1940). The bulletins are the most intense and comprehensive studies to advocate prohibition of child labor. Particularly valuable are the Lewis Hine photos printed in each volume.

Charities, Charities and Commons, Charities Review (1895-1910). This contains many articles by some of the leading child labor reformers of the period. For example, Mary Van Kleek, "Child Labor in New York City Tenements," (January 18, 1908).

Survey and Survey Graphic (1913-1940). Paul Kellog of the Pittsburgh Survey expanded attention to include social and economic inequality for all industrial areas. It was in one of the early articles on the poor living and working conditions of Pittsburgh that the city was described as "Hell with the lid taken off." In October of 1938, Survey Graphic printed a biographical article on Lewis W. Hine, the man who left indelible images of child and immigrant workers when he captured their souls on the glass plates of a camera.

Journal of Political Economy (1893-Present); American Economic Review (1912-1984 print--1984-present on microform or CD Rom); International Labor Review (1921-1988 print--1988-present on microform or CD Rom). The periodical holdings of the Department of Labor Library has many social, economic, and historical journals such as these that commonly or occasionally have child-labor related articles.

Union and Industry Publications

United Mine Workers Journal (1890-Present). The UMWA publication, especially in the period 1890-1920, was one of the most aggressive publications criticizing the use of child labor in the coal fields. A particular target of their anger was the plight of "breaker boys" in the Anthracite seems of Pennsylvania; with the demise of the industry after World War I, the problem lessened. In the Bituminous fields of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, the problem remained but not with the same intensity as before the war. Alternate fuels (oil and gasoline) reduced market shares and child labor lessened but did not disappear.

Journal of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Tin, and Steelworkers (1880-1919). As in the coal industry, child labor diminished as technology and the availability of cheap adult labor via immigration increased after 1900. Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick basically crushed this organization in 1919. There were "puddlers" and other job classifications in the coke and steel industry before World War I, that did hire young boys.

American Federationist (1895-1996). The house organ of the AFL, it contained many articles, editorials, and letters to the editor condemning child labor.

National Association of Manufacturers, Facts Concerning Child Labor, Special Report of the NAM #24. This pamphlet contends that not all child labor is invidious and that better employers either refrain from the use of children as workers or treat them according to the state laws. The "cheap" manufacturer is the real culprit in any abusive situation the article claims. NAM produced a series of articles and studies refuting the worst charges of child labor reformers.

The Bottle Maker, Official Journal of the Glass blowers Association of U.S. and Canada: name changed to Glass Horizons in 1926, and after several other name changes is still published as Horizons. Ironically, the glass workers were more concerned about the use of young workers--they were referred to as apprentices--replacing skilled adult glass workers than the actual practice of using child labor.

Fettke, Charles, Glass Manufacturing and Glass Sand Industries of Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, 1918. Primarily a technical industry oriented monograph, it discusses some child labor issues.

Official History of the American Flint Glass Workers Union: 1878-1957, Toledo, 1957. Strictly a "coffee-table" type commemorative, most notable in its lack of discussion of the issue of child labor in the industry.

The Proceedings of union conventions and trade union journals from the period up to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The Department of Labor Library has many such documents. For example, consider the following piece from a clothing union publication:

Proceedings of the 3rd Biennial convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, "Documentary History of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America: 1916-1918. (One picture of a young worker scabbing during a strike at the Sigmund Eisner Company in Red Bank, New Jersey.) "The young toiler in knee pants, whose right place is on the playground, (has responded) to a 'Boys Wanted' ad to work with machines that maim and cripple, to scab it upon adult workers...."

Agricultural workers and some industry classifications were exempt from the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. There are many government documents and publications, as well as periodical articles, monographs, and research studies in the library holdings on the plight of migrant children workers with particular emphasis on African-American and Hispanic groups. The focus of this bibliography has been pre-FLSA due to space limitations. Here are several general resources pertaining to the issue:

Coles, Robert, Uprooted Children: The Early Life of Migrant Farm Workers. Pittsburgh, 1970.

Daniel, Cletus, Bitter Harvest, a History of California Farmworkers. Cornell Press, 1981.

National Child Labor Committee, Migrant Farm Labor in Colorado (1951).

Taylor, Ronald, Sweatshops in the Sun: Child Labor on the Farm, Boston, 1973.

U.S. President's Commission on Migratory Labor, Migratory Labor in American Agriculture (1951).

Speeches and Papers

Addresses and Speeches of the Secretaries of Labor: 1921-1992.

John Mitchell Papers (President of the United Mine Workers Union)

Microfilm Holdings

The Departmental Library contains many local union newspapers, Ph.D. dissertations, and other research documents that pertain to child-labor issues. Here are just a few items:

  • Bakers Journal (Paterson, New Jersey) 1888-1890.
  • Cigar Makers Official Journal 1880-1919 - fragmented collection.
  • Garment Worker 1902-1945.
  • Workingmen's Advocate 1864-1877 (Chicago, Illinois).
  • Labor News and Worcester County Recorder 1906-1930. (Accounts of 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike conducted by Industrial Workers of the World. During the strike the radical labor leader Mother Jones conducted a march of workers' children out of Lawrence for their protection and in the process generating much publicity for the strikers.
  • Gulf Coast News Digest 1944-1973 (Mobile, Alabama). In the years following FLSA, considerable child labor continued in the canning industry (seafood) along the gulf coast.

Please check the Library Catalog or with the Reference staff for other available resources