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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Girls also worked in factories. Here’s another photo from Morgantown, where the photographer said “morals are proverbially bad.”
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.”
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.
This boy was the tipple boy at the Turkey Knob Mine, Macdonald, Fayette County.
And here he is with the whole tipple crew at the mine.
The photographer said there were dozens of small boys at the Central Glass Company in Wheeling.
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.
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.