Heroes

Once In A While, Somebody Comes Along And Captures Images That Change A Nation

Some of the most disturbing images that were captured in the early part of the 1900s were those of kids working in factories, coal mines, and other places where no kids belonged. The most famous photographer was Lewis Hine; his pictures brought these children into the spotlight in a way the nation could no longer ignore.

Once In A While, Somebody Comes Along And Captures Images That Change A Nation
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Little spinner in Globe Cotton Mill, Augusta, Georgia, 1909

All throughout the 1800s, children worked in almost every country, sometimes in the worst possible conditions for the lowest pay. It was a problem in the United States certainly; as early as 1834, the National Trades Union in New York called for the ban of the practice. (1)


Child laborers, midnight at the Glassworks, Indiana, 1908

I’m just speculating, but I’m pretty sure I’m right that some of the same kinds of arguments we hear today about minimum wage were used back then:

  • “These jobs are just to teach them how to work!”
  • “They’re lucky they have an income at all!”
  • “These are great jobs for people with no skills!”
  • “They’re just flipping rocks, washing the walls, and sorting coal!”

Little Lottie, a regular oyster shucker in Alabama Canning Co., Bayou La Batre, Alabama, 1911

Kids sometimes as young as 6 years old worked 11 or 12 hours a day, six days a week, for a dollar or two per week. There were frequent beatings. Accidents and deaths were extremely common, and kids were usually considered more expendable than adults. (2)

As awareness grew about this problem, more labor unions passed resolutions that were intended to influence the national conversation about this issue, including the American Federation of Labor, formed in 1881. As more people discovered some of the horrible conditions kids worked in, the issue ebbed and flowed in political, social, and community conversations.


A regular worker (doffer) in Richmond Spinning Mills. Photo during working hours. Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1910

According to the 1900 U.S. Census, there were almost 2 million children working in this country — about 1 in 6 kids. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed, and it aggressively fought for child labor law reform. It hired Lewis Hine in 1908 to photograph kids working in various industries; 10 years and thousands of photographs later, the mission was accomplished. It was perhaps one of the best uses of photography, a relatively new medium, to change minds and hearts. (3)

Carrying-in boy at the Lehr (15 years old), Glass Works, Grafton, West Virginia, 1908

It took until 1938 for this to be put largely behind us, at least in the United Sates. This was achieved under the administration of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with support from the NCLC. This became the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is still the primary tool used to fight child labor in the United States. (4)

Laura Petty, a 6-year-old berry picker on Jenkins farm, Rock Creek, Maryland, 1909

However, even with that in place, there were exceptions made in those laws that allow children to work in agriculture. This continues today.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less