Episode 55: Photos of Our Mill-Working Ancestors with Joe Manning

In the early twentieth century child laborers worked in mills across America. Perhaps your ancestors did too. It’s possible. In 1900 more than 1.75 million children aged 10 to 15 were employed. A photo of your ancestor might exist. I’m a big fan of this week’s guest, Joe Manning. He finds the photos and connects them with family.

 In 1908, the National Child Labor Committee hired a photographer named Lewis Hine.  He spent more than a decade photographing child workers from New York to the Carolinas to Pittsburgh. He documented the horrific work conditions in which our ancestors labored. The NCLC was trying to end child labor using the images to raise awareness of the issue. 

Many of Lewis Hines photographs are at Lbrary of Congress. You can search them for free using the link in the show notes. If you had an ancestor who worked as a child, they might be depicted in a photo taken by Hine. In many cases the descriptions and captions that accompany these images are incomplete or don’t exist at all. 

That doesn’t deter my guest from piecing together the story and reuniting the past with the present. He’s on a mission to identify the children and reunite their descendants with these images. Joe Manning is an amazing photo investigator, but every so often he asks for my opinion. You can follow his successes on his website, Mornings on Maple Street.

About My Guest:

For the past thirteen years, Joe Manning has been identifying some of the more than 5,000 child laborers that were photographed in the early 1900s by Lewis Hine, and then tracking down and interviewing their descendants. So far, he has been successful at telling the stories of more than 300 children.

Manning is an author, historian, freelance journalist, poet, and songwriter. He has published two books about the history of North Adams, Massachusetts, and a book of his poetry. A social worker for 30 years, he retired in 1999 to devote his time to his writing career. His Lewis Hine Project has been featured on CBS Evening News and National Public Radio. Manning lives in Florence, Massachusetts. His work can be seen at www.MorningsOnMapleStreet.com

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About Maureen Taylor:

Maureen is a frequent keynote speaker on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history at historical and genealogical societies, museums, conferences, libraries, and other organizations across the U.S., London, and Canada.  She’s the author of several books and hundreds of articles and her television appearances include The View and The Today Show (where she researched and presented a complete family tree for host Meredith Vieira).  She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, The Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, Germany’s top newspaper Der Spiegel, American Spirit, and The New York Times. Maureen was recently a spokesperson and photograph expert for MyHeritage.com, an internationally known family history website and also writes guidebooks, scholarly articles and online columns for such media as Smithsonian.com. Learn more at Maureentaylor.com

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