These Pictures Show The Brutal Reality Of Life Before Child Labor Laws In The US

If you thought gym class felt like torture, wait until you see these photos of child laborers from the early 1900s. From 1890 to 1910, the number of children younger than 15 in the workforce skyrocketed to two million. These pictures only show a fraction of the youth employed in various exhaustive fields. As industry in the United States boomed following the Civil War, manufacturers turned to child workers due to their small hands and the ease with which employers could underpay them. But as the Gilded Age began to slow and unions began to gain posterity, exploitive hiring practices, like enlisting child miners, started to lose popularity.

Photographer Lewis Hine took up the fight against underage labor by snapping photographs of child workers, giving his work to the National Child Labor Committee. Thanks to people like him, children now spend time in school instead of operating dangerous machinery or selling newspapers in the freezing cold.