Child Labor


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History of Child Labor in America
There had always been forms child labor in America that ranged from the enforced work of indentured servitude to child slavery. But child labor also provided the help needed in farming families and communities. Child labor was needed in the rural farming areas, dictated by essential daily chores and the requirements of the agricultural seasons. Poor families relied upon child labor in order to attain basic necessities and living essentials. The jobs allocated to children depended on their age and whether they were boys or girls.  Farm work could be hard, but working conditions were not dangerous and at least allowed kids to breath the fresh air. The use of child labor, and the risks and working conditions of children, underwent a enormous change in the 1800's.  Industry developed on an extensive scale and the mechanization of industry resulted in the abuse of children who were forced to work in terrible conditions in factories, mines and mills. This article provides the history of child labor in America during the 1800's, the following links provide facts and information about events that were particularly relevant to the subject of child labor.

US Industrial RevolutionIndustrialization in AmericaUS American History
Urbanization in AmericaLabor Unions HistoryThe Progressive Movement

1800's Child Labor in America
This article provides facts and information about child labor in America during the 1800's. This was the time when the Industrial Revolution and the process of Industrialization transformed America from a rural, agricultural to a city based industrial society that resulted in a massive increase in child labor during the 1800's.

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Causes of Child Labor in the 1800's
Many factors and causes contributed to the rise of Child Labor in America during the 1800's. Enormous wealth was accumulated due to the Mines and the Mining Industry and the establishment of the Factories and the Factory System. The rise of Big Business and Corporations saw the emergence of the ruthless Robber Barons who motivated by greed and money, exploited workers and used child labor to increase production and profits. The causes of child labor in America during the 1800's include the following:


Child Labor Causes in the 1800's

Child Labor Causes in America:Inventions and new technology of the Industrial Revolution
Child Labor Causes in America:

The Process of Industrialization and the mechanization of industry that led to the building of factories and the factory system

Child Labor Causes in America:

The Rise of Big Business and Corporations and the emergence of the ruthless Robber Barons whose unethical, uncaring working practices led to mass production and the depersonalization of workers

Child Labor Causes in America:The need for cheap labor - the power driven machines could be operated by children
Child Labor Causes in America:Urbanization, the movement of millions of people from rural locations to the cities  made possible by new transportation systems
Child Labor Causes in America:Poverty - children were forced to work to help their families
Child Labor Causes in America:

Labor Shortages - the massive influx of immigration in the 1800's fed the demand for labor including the extensive employment of immigrant children

Child Labor Causes in America:

Lack of government regulation to enforce safety standards, working conditions and working hours. A variety of laws differed from state to state

Child Labor Causes in America:

The opposition to Labor Unions prevented workers from protecting children and making it more difficult to improve labor standards and living standards in order to eliminate child labor.

Child Labor Causes in America:

Reform movements, who worked to abolish child labor, did not emerge until the 1890's with the start of the Progressive Movement and Progressive Reforms.


Child Labor Causes in the 1800's

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Wages and Hours of Work
During the period of Industrialization child labor was the norm. Child labor made up 20% of the workforce. Their parents had no choice to send them to work as their meager wages helped to support the families. The working children had no time to play or go to school, and little time to rest. The prevalence of child labor in America meant that the poor could not receive an education to enable them to get better, skilled jobs. Children were deprived of a decent education and entered the spiral of poverty from which there was no escape for the growing number of unskilled and uneducated workers.

  • How long did children work and what were they paid? The typical hours of work lasted from sunrise to sunset, 11 or 12 hours per day, six days a week. They had less than one hour break in their working day.

  • How much did they earn? They earned an average weekly wage of one dollar.

  • How old were the children? Some were employed in child labor as young as five years old and were paid low wages until they reached the age of sixteen

  • According to the 1900 US Census, a total of 1,752,187 (about 1 in every 6) children between the ages of 5 and 10 were engaged in "gainful occupations" in the United States of America.

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Types of Jobs
In the early history of child labor in America all but the privileged few were expected to work. Child labor was more manageable and cheaper than adult labor and children were
less likely to strike. Children were employed in the whole range of American industries and their working conditions varied according to the jobs they were expected to undertake. Children had no choice in the type of jobs they did, it depended on what was available in the location they were raised in. What kind of jobs did Children have in America in the 1800s for child labor? The following table describes the types of jobs and work that employed Child labor in the 1800's.

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Types of Jobs and Work

Child Labor jobs and work:Agricultural IndustryJobs included chasing away birds, sewing and harvesting the crops.
Child Labor jobs and work:Textile IndustryChildren worked spinning and weaving cotton and woolen goods in the mills. Bobbin boys were employed in the textile mills bringing bobbins to the women at the looms and collecting the full bobbins.
Child Labor jobs and work:Mining IndustryThe mining industry was an extremely dangerous, unpleasant and filthy occupation. Young boys called "Breaker Boys" processed raw coal by breaking it into various sizes for different types of furnaces. Other children were employed as coal bearers, carrying coal in baskets on their shoulders. The smaller children worked as "trappers" who opened trap doors in the mines to move the coal.
Child Labor jobs and work:Manufacturing IndustryThe factories were often damp, dark, and dirty with few toilet facilities. The machines and sharp tools used performing various jobs caused many injuries. Glass factories were notorious and boys under 12 where expected to carry loads of hot glass
Child Labor jobs and work:Laboring workChildren were also employed to help the laborers engaged in construction and transportation projects including the railroads and canals. Water Boys were employed to carry water to workers who dug canal beds and railroads
Child Labor jobs and work:Domestic WorkChildren performed domestic work in large houses up to 16 hours per day, seven days per week. The hall boys, scullery maids, kitchen girls or drudges performed the worst jobs such as emptying chamber pots. .
Child Labor jobs and work:SweatshopsChildren worked in the dirty tenement sweatshops making clothes and other small items
Child Labor jobs and work:Street WorkChildren performed a variety of jobs on the streets and sewers. Ragpickers made a living by rummaging through refuse in the streets collecting items and scraps for salvage including cloth, paper, broken glass and even dead cats and dogs could be skinned to make clothes. Other street jobs included delivery boys and shoeshine boys

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Types of Jobs and Work


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1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Deaths and Injuries
The children worked in dangerous conditions. According to statistics in 1900 there were 25,000 - 35,000 deaths and 1 million injuries occurred on industrial jobs, many of these victims would have been children.

  • Children had higher rates of injury and death at work than adults and over 50% of child labor was involved in hazardous and dangerous work.

  • Many worked in confined spaces and underground in unhealthy environments.

  • They were exposed to extreme heat and cold.

  • There was no government regulations for health and safety and no state safety regulations existed.

  • There were some safety instructions on factory machines but as most workers were completely illiterate these were as good as useless.

  • The causes of the most deaths were fires, explosions, cave-ins and train wrecks.

  • The main causes of injuries were the factory machines and sharp tools. Children lost fingers, hands were mangled and some were scalped when hair that got caught in the machinery.

  • Some children were killed when they fell asleep and fell into factory machines.

  • Carrying heavy loads caused lifelong deformities and handicaps.

  • Children not only suffered from physical stress they were also subjected to mental stress due to appalling working conditions.

  • The health of children suffered working in back-breaking jobs in dark, gloomy environments with poor ventilation. They suffered from lung, ear and eye infections and unsanitary conditions led to terrible diseases and illnesses such as cholera, bronchitis and tuberculosis

Child Labor Laws in America for kids: Progressive Reforms
The 1916 Keating-Owen Child Labor Act was a federal law passed limiting how many hours children were allowed to work, prohibiting the employment of children under the age of fourteen in factories producing goods for interstate commerce.

1800's Child Labor in America for kids: United States History for Kids - Video of US Presidents
The article on Child Labor in America provides detailed facts and a summary of the most important inventions and innovations during the history of the United States
- a crash course in American History. The following video will give you additional important facts, history and dates about the personal and political lives of all the US Presidents.




1800's Child Labor in America
Interesting Facts about Child Labor in America for kids
Summary of Child Labor in America
Child Labor in America, a major event in US history
Causes of Child Labor in America
Fast, fun facts about Child Labor in America
Mines and the Mining Industry, Factories and the Factory System
Child Labor in America in America for schools, homework, kids and children

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