Sun Herald from Biloxi, Mississippi on July 27, 1986 · 50
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Sun Herald from Biloxi, Mississippi · 50

Biloxi, Mississippi
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 27, 1986
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It : D6THE SUN HERALD SUNDAY JULY 27 1986 7 f Biloxi Mississippi — February 1911 (left) "Some of the young shrimp-pickers at Dunbar Lopez Dukate Co Sore swollen and even bleeding fingers are common among these workers on account of the acid in the shrimp" (This photo has appeared in many recent publications on Coast history) Bay St Louis Mississippi — March 1911 (below) "Lillian Dambrinio an 1 1 -year-old shrimp picker in Peerless Oyster Co She is an American and lives here Says picking makes her hands s°re (Note the condition of her shoes One worker told me The acid in the shrimp eats the shoes off your feet) She says she earns a dollar a day when shrimp are big Goes to school but not when factory is busy" Pictures worth a thousand words Photographer Hine's camera helped end child-labor practices in the South Wickes Hine used his camera to bring of child labor to national attention Ftora 1908 to 1916 he captured the deplorable working conditions of youngsters some hardy beyond fodder age who worked for meager wages in Southern mdb and factories The Mississippi Coast with its busy seafood packing plants did not escape Hine’s revealing Hine’s crusade occurred at a time when the New South was growing industrial legs — legs that helped Southerners walk away from the financial chaos of Civil War Reconstruction But the price was high for the poor cfagdren who augmented an inadequate work force for many had to forgo education to help their family meet Gulf Coast chronicles By KAT BERGERON Forever captured on film are these ragtag children of the factories Hine firmly believed “They are storing up trouble when they grow up handicapped by lack of education broken physically and with a distaste for n wOnL A Wisconsin native Hine was bom in 1878 the son of an Oshkosh coffeehouse owner Although he moved to New York in 1901 to teach it was soon evident his heart beat with the dick of a camera He first distinguished himself in a 1904 EDis Island project by capturing on film the wide-eyed yet hopeful faces erf immigrants Another project captured the family fife and harsh working conditions of the steel-mill city of Pittsburg Hine’s depictions were revealing and often heartrending and soon iwpnw and social-reform organizations were commissioning his work His photographs frequently appeared in Charities and Commons a New York weekly dedicated to social reform In 1908b he landed a $100-a-week job photographing the industries of the South for the National Child Labor Committee NCLC the first effective force against child labor had been formed by an Alabamian and North Carolinian angered by the defeat of yet another child labor law Remodeling the New South in the image of the industrial North had only transferred child-labor problems from one region to another Some Southerners were dogged in their defense of child labor because that is how die industrial North had moved ahead in its infancy To boot Northern investors hurried along industrialization below the Mason-Dixon Line because of cheap fuel and cheap labor there Child-welfare activists already had won some battles against Northern factories so they were ready when the South’s use of child labor burgeoned Groups like NCLC used many kinds of propaganda to get their message across: bodes magazine articles public lectures pamphlets and of course traveling photo exhibits "Lewis Hine’s photographs became an essential part of the campaign” explains John R Kemp in his new book Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in toe New South “They illustrated the books articles and pamphlets adding great force to the words they accompanied "By September 1909 Hine had taken more than 800 photographs of textile-mill workers in the South and New Enidand of workers in tobacco and seafood-packing plants in the Gulf States in canneries along die Atlantic Coast and in coal mines glassworks and other indus tries in the mid-Atlantic region” For 11 years Hine had uncovered what one journalist called the nation’s “evil and hidden purity” for die Labor Committee Kemp combed through 5 GOO of those NCLC prints now in the Edward L Bafford Photography Collection of the University of Maryland and picked 80 for reprint in the 1986 bode including a dozen from Mississippi seafood factories and three from upstate textile mills From 1911 to 1916 traveling along the Alabama Mississippi and Louisiana coasts Hine investigated child labor in the shrimp canneries and oyster packing sheds Kemp says Hine reported that these canneries more thro any other industry exploited immigrant children “He found thousands of Polish and Bohemian immigrants who had been hired by bosses or “padrones ’ in Baltimore and other Southern cities and shipped by train to the Gulf Coast” Kemp writes of Hine’s sleuthing "They worked most of the year either picking berries or following the oyster and shrimp seasons As one padrone said: T keep ’em a-workin' all the year In the winter bring ’em down here to the Gulf In the summer take ’em to the beny fields of Maryland rod Delaware They didn’t lose many weeks’ time but I have a hard time to get ’em sometimes Have to tell ’em all kinds of lies’ “Immigrants and padrones moved from cannery to cannery living in company-owned shades Most of these hovels said Hine were totally inadequate and infested with rats and insects A one-room cabin often housed an entire family” Hine who often gave verbal as well as pictorial reports described Southern factory work as "hard exhausting and deadening in its monotonous simplicity and as the bodies of the workers sway back and forth with rhythm concentrated on the job one is reminded forcibly of sweatshop scenes in large cities ” Both employers and parents of the New South favored the use of child labor Kemp explains Parents wanted their children working at their ride to keep an eye on them and also they desperately needed their meager earnings — anywhere from a few nickels to a dollar a Biloxi Mississippi — February 1911 "Family of Peter Elvis New Orleans La All except smallest baby work in the Bartaria Canning Company Youngest boy Jo seven years old works Saturdays Alma the 3-year-old by the door is 'learning the trade her mother said" day On the other side of the coin the seafood factory owners claimed that hard work built character and that all hands were needed because the product was perishable To that excuse Hine asked "Are not the children perishable?” "Hine like most people of his day believed in the value of work but he saw child labor as a perversion of the work ethic” Kemp says The crusading photograper didn’t mince words in 1915 when he attacked factory profits: "There is work that profits the 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” Hine said the exploitation of children produced only "human junk” a term he employed over and over in his writing and his exhibits (hi a return trip to Gulf seafood factories Hines observed that most children did not attend public or parochial classes during the day although some did attended religious night schools taught by nuns "Of the hundreds of children who went south from Baltimore with their parents Hine said that only 30 attended school regularly” Kemp reports “Of these half were in Biloxi yet Hine found more child-labor violations in Biloxi than in any other cannery town” When President Woodrow Wilson spent Christmas 1913 cm the Coast he decided to visit a Pass Christian canning factory A New York Sun reporter who witnessed the event wrote: “He saw children 7 and 8 years old working their 16 hour shift in steam and Mustering wind their little hands sene and bleeding from the action of the acrid juices and brine The President started to take a walk through the oyster-packing plant but a whiff of the noisome steam struck him and he retired to the motor car” Such reports added punch to the labor movement and public sentiment gradually swayed toward the overworked child Hine and other crusaders succeeded in getting a child-labor law in all Southern states by 1912 although many of the laws were weak and favored the manufacturer There were several attempts at passage of a national child-labor law but none were successful until President Franklin D Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 Long before that date Hine had transferred his energies to photographing the common man at work He’d done his share of the negative he said and wanted to tackle the positive That translated into an "intelligent interpretation of the world's workers not only for the people of today but for future ages” No matter what the subject Hine’s photographs seemed to awaken the nation's conscience He once explained “Unfortuantely many persons don’t comprehend good writing On the other hand a picture makes it appeal to everyone” And Hine’s photographs spoke volumes (The background for this story came from John R Kemp’s Lewis Hine: Photographs of Child Labor in the New South published this year by the University Press of Mississippi The photographs on this page were selected from the book and carry Hine’s original cutlines) Pass Christian Mississippi February 1911 "All these children (except babies) shuck oysters and tend babies at the Pass Packing Co I saw them all at work there long before daybreak Photos taken at noon in the absence of the supt who refused me permission because of child labor agitation Factory belongs to Dunbar Lopez Dukate Co" Photos reprinted from "Lewis Hine: — — aJ rnotograpns or Child Labor in the New South" by John R Kemp if -1 i A lllir 4C 1 I V V

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