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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day for Industrial New England

Lest we forget, and leave the holiday entirely behind us, this is face of Labor Day. This day has become less political, less infused with debate on social issues, and become a more benign holiday. Perhaps we could say as much for Independence Day or Memorial Day, but then maybe backyard picnics have a way of lulling us into a sense of comfort. We need that. But the desire for comfort rather than the actual attainment of it is what labor was about in the era these photographs were taken.

The photographs in this post are not from my collection, but from the United States Library of Congress. They are from the records of the National Child Labor Committee, and all were taken by photographer Lewis Wickes Hine. They represent an industrial New England before the jobs went overseas, before they even went South. People from all over the world emigrated here for the work, not just for an idealized notion of freedom because the work itself represented freedom.

Pictured aboved, Clarence Wool was 11 years old, a spinner in a North Pownal, Vermont cotton mill. The year was 1910.

This little girl was a spinner in Fall River, Mass. in June of 1916.

Here is the spooling room in an Indian Orchard, Mass. factory.

Most were non-English speaking, many illiterate. These are children. This doffer, a boy who changes the bobbins in a cotton mill, is in Fall River, Mass.

These doffers are in North Pownal, Vermont in August of 1910.

Here is the noon lunch hour at the Sanford Manufacturing Company in Sanford, Maine, in April of 1909.

Here are some workers from the carding and weaving room of the Kilburn Mills in New Bedford, Mass., August 1911.

These girls work at the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, New Hampshire, in May 1909.

When we fire up the grill, it’s appropriate to remember the “good old days”, and count one’s blessings.

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