A Century Ago, Children Were Seafood Processors


Island Journal






A piece about child labor in Maine, accompanied by photographs of children who worked in the Eastport sardine canneries. The photos were taken by Lewis Wickes Hine, an investigative photographer from the National Child Labor Committee. He documented injuries and dangerous working conditions in the cannery. Child labor was common in many other industries around the state, with children from poor families getting jobs on board ships, in the chewing gum factory, and in hotel laundries and textile mills. Describes the slow process of reform which led to a law in 1907 which raised the work age to 14, although it allowed an exemption for businesses that handled perishable food, including the seafood processing industry. Finally, in 1911, this loophole was closed and it was forbidden for any industry to employ children younger than 14.

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