Smithsonian

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In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed in an attempt to persuade Congress to regulate child labor. One of its members, Jane Addams, reported in 1907 that there were over two million children under the age of sixteen in paid employment in the United States. It was not until June 1938 that Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, setting the minimum age for employment at fourteen outside of the school year in non-manufacturing jobs and at sixteen during the school year.
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In the 1880s, small textile mills moved south away from New England. Many of these companies mirrored the earlier Slater system, which produced on a small scale, under paternalistic practices. In these southern mill towns the company would provide jobs, houses, food, clothing, and goods, and the towns were controlled by mill agents and superintendents. The work force was drawn from the countryside; it included many children working under harsh conditions.
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After the Civil War, Reconstruction governments confiscated land in the South and reassigned it to tenants. This deed shows the rental agreement between two such parties. This system later solidified into sharecropping, which was present in the South until the middle of the twentieth century.
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Quote from a business owner
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Machinery and the price of goods
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Quote from a Pullman laborer, 1883
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Immigration and the standard of living
Photograph
Child laborers in a South Carolina cotton mill, photographed by Lewis Hine in 1908.
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Boot and Shoe Factory
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Wheel Auto Factory (large factory)

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