Mining: Jobs at the mine were of the more intense child labor jobs because of the intense demand of physical labor. The hours were long, around 9 or 10 hours and the pay was unbearably small. Most children earned about .75 cents per hour. Because of the lack of light in the mines, many children had lasting eye problems because of the many hours spent in the pitch black. 1
Some boys were "Trappers," boys who open the doors to the mine allowing cars to pass. These boys would be moving for around 30 minutes a day out of a 10 hour work shift. The photo on the right below is a trapper boy. These boys were almost always dirty with a lack of eyesight and air that was tough to breathe. The photo on the left is a young boy running a trip rope down into a mine. 2
Long-term health: 3 After working in the mines for years for up to 11 hour work shifts, many lung conditions were developed by the boys from inhaling soot and other debris in the mines. These diseases included black lung, tuberculosis, and lung cancer. There was a risk of suffocation from the lack of clean air.
Deaths: Many miners were victims of underpayment and overwork which was physically grueling. Along with long-term health defects, a good number of miners died. Some of the top reasons for miners deaths were fires, started by explosions from lamps, roof collapses, falling down various shafts, drowning and being run over by coal wagons. The fire explosions eventually led to new advances in technology to create safer ways of light into the mines, which was good for the current workers. 4
Greaser in Bessie Mine 5
This is Shorpy Higginbotham, a greaser at Bessie Mine in Alabama. Hine spoke to him and Shorpy said he was 14 at the time, but it is doubtful. Shorpy carries two heavy pails of grease all day, and is in immediate danger of being run over by coal cars.
1. Alan Taylor, "Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago," The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/07/child-labor-in-america-100-years-ago/397478/. 2. ibid 3. "Health Issues," Child Labor Public Education Project, https://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/laborctr/child_labor/about/health_issues.html. 4. Walter Trattner, Crusade for the Children: A History of the National Child Labor Committee and Child Labor Reform in America (1970). 5. Alan Taylor, "Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago," The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/07/child-labor-in-america-100-years-ago/397478/.