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Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management
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Child Labor Reform Exhibit 4

Photo of boys picking coal
Exhibits

The tireless efforts of reformers, social workers and unions seemed to pay off in 1916 - at the height of the progressive movement - when President Woodrow Wilson passed the Keating-Owen Act banning articles produced by child labor from being sold in interstate commerce. The act was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court just two years later.

Young girls continued to work in mills, still in danger of slipping and losing a finger or a foot while standing on top of machines to change bobbins; or of being scalped if their hair got caught. And, as ever, after a day of bending over to pick bits of rock from coal, breaker boys were still stiff and in pain. If a breaker boy fell, he could still be smothered, or crushed, by huge piles of coal. And, when he turned 12, he would still be forced to go down into the mines and face the threat of cave-ins and explosions.