Lewis Hine believed in the power of photography. He believed that if the American people could photos of the children working in poor conditions, that their attitudes towards child labor would change. In 1908, Hine quit his job as a schoolteacher, and went to work full-time as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC).
Hine traveled all over the country to photograph children working in various industries, tricking his way into factories to take pictures. He photographed children working in mines, factories, textile mills, meatpacking houses, street trades and agriculture, and was careful to document each photograph with facts.
Businesses liked to hire children because of their small, nimble hands and because they could pay children lower wages than adults. Children that worked rarely had the chance to go to school and gain an education, and many developed serious health problems as a result of the work they were doing. Many child laborers were underweight, and some suffered from stunted growth and curvature of the spine. They developed diseases like tuberculosis and bronchitis as a result from their work environment, like coal mines and cotton mills. The on-the-job accident rate was high due to the long hours of hard work the children endured.
“There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work.”
– Lewis Hine, 1908
Hine’s photography was instrumental in changing public opinion on child labor, and the fight for stricter child labor laws. In 1916, Congress passed the Keating-Owens Act, which : a minimum age of 14 for workers in manufacturing and 16 for workers in mining; a maximum workday of 8 hours; prohibition of night work for workers under age 16; and a documentary proof of age (Kent College of Law).