Life for children at the turn of the 20th century was very different. We found these photos taken between 1908-1910 that illustrate just how hard life was for kids—who were expected to work and help support their families.

1.

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This young man was a driver in a Brown coal mine in Fayette County. He worked from 7 in the morning to 5:30 at night every day. When this photo was taken in 1908, he had been doing it for about a year.

2.

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The mold boy for this glass blower in Grafton would work a 4.5 hour shift, get an hour off, and then work 4.5 hours more—all in that cramped position. He’d switch from a day shift one week to a night shift the next.

3.

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This 15-year-old boy was the “carrying-in-boy” at a glass works in Grafton. By this point in 1908, he had worked there several years and made $1.25 for each nine-hour day.

4.

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The photographer wrote there were plenty of young boys at the Union Stopper Company, another glass maker, in Morgantown. The boy at the machine was a “catching up boy” and was probably about 10 years old.

5.

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The boss at this Morgantown glass factory teaching a young boy how to do his new job. The boss began himself at the age of 10 and had been at it for 30 years since.

6.

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Girls also worked in factories. Here’s another photo from Morgantown, where the photographer said “morals are proverbially bad.”

7.

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At 5 p.m. these boys at the Monougal Glass Works in Fairmont were heading home. A worker told the photographer, “de place is lousey wid kids.”

8.

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This 13-year-old boy, whom the photographer said looked overgrown, ran the trip rope on a tipple at the Welch Mining Company in Welch, McDowell County. He worked 10 hours a day.

9.

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This boy was the tipple boy at the Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, Fayette County.

10.

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And here he is with the whole tipple crew at the mine.

11.

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The photographer said there were dozens of small boys at the Central Glass Company in Wheeling.

12.

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This 12-year-old catch-up boy at the Monongah Glass Company in Fairmont said he made 70 cents a day and thought the glass business was alright.

13.

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This young boy, Nola McKinney, had his legs severed by a motor car in a coal mine when he was 14 years old. He worked as a secretary in Monongah in the years after that.

Photos by Lewis Wicks Hines and from the National Archives and are all public domain.

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