Educator Resources

Photographs of Lewis Hine -- Documentation of Child Labor

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 6 -The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)

    • Standard 3A -Demonstrate understanding of how the "second industrial revolution" changed the nature of work and conditions of work.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard V.B.3 -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding economic rights.

Constitutional Connection

This lesson relates to the First Amendment rights, including freedom of the press and right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share this exercise with your history, government, language arts, and business law colleagues.



  1. Write the Lewis Hine quote that introduces the Background Information on the board and ask students to discuss it in relation to labor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then ask if they can draw a correlation to labor today. Next, provide students with background information on Lewis Hine and the child labor movement at the turn of the century. Be certain to discuss Hine's use of photography and its value to the reform movement. Finally, ask how many students have a family album of photographs. Ask: Why do we take and keep photographs? What information can you gather from photographs? How can historians use photographs? What information can historians gather from photographs? Discuss the issues of the photographer's point of view in taking pictures.

Photograph Analysis

  1. Print out a copy of Document 1 and reproduce it on a transparency. Use this photograph to demonstrate to the students techniques in photo analysis. Give students a few minutes to look at the photograph. Turn off the projector, and ask them to write down everything they saw in the photograph. After a few minutes, ask students to share their findings. They will probably have some conflicting views; some students will see things that others have not seen or, in some cases, claim to have seen things not present in the photograph. Cut an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper into four parts. Place these four parts over the picture so that you can reveal one section of the photograph at a time, keeping the rest of the picture covered. Ask students to look closely at the area that is revealed and describe what they see in the photograph. This will draw their attention to the details of the photograph. After students have had an opportunity to view each section, uncover the whole photograph and ask them how what they now see in the photograph has changed.

  2. Divide students into small groups. Give each group a copy of one of the featured photographs from the Hine collection. The photographs can be printed from the digitized image, or they can be downloaded onto a disk and each group can work from the image on their computers. If your classroom has the advantage of Internet access, students can locate their photographs through the National Archives Web site by using the control number for the assigned photographs (these are listed below). Next, ask each group to study the selected photograph as they did in the demonstration. Then distribute the Photograph Analysis Worksheet developed by the National Archives education staff and direct students to complete the questions. After each group has completed its analysis, ask them to share their photographs and the information from their analyses. Each group should answer the question: What does this photograph tell you about child labor at the turn of the century?

Creative Writing

  1. As a creative writing assignment, ask each group from Activity 3 to create a story around its photograph that addresses the issues of child labor. Possible issues include safety on the job, inability to get an education, health hazards in the work environment, general health of young children, the movement to abolish child labor, and general living conditions of the era.

  2. For an independent creative writing assignment, ask students to create a diary entry for a person in one of the photographs. Direct students to describe in detail the person's workday and explain his or her reasons for working and feelings about the job.

Class Discussion

  1. At the conclusion of these activities, lead a class discussion about the issues of labor and the role of the government. Ask: Should the government regulate labor in private industry? Why or why not? How far should regulation go? How can companies be held responsible for working conditions? What labor regulations are in effect today? How and why were these regulations established?

  2. Poll students to find out how many have jobs. Ask: What jobs do you hold? What procedures required by the federal or state government did you have to follow before you could be employed? What are the regulations you have to follow in your particular jobs? Were you advised of safety rules or hour restrictions? What are the dangers of your particular jobs? Do you feel you have adequate protection as employed minors? What would you change about your jobs? Create a list of job-related problems students have today. Ask: What are the obstacles you face if you try to change your working conditions. Brainstorm ideas about how students can address these labor issues in their own employment and create an action plan.

Interactive Computer Activity

  1. As an interactive computer activity utilizing the Internet and multimedia, divide students into teams of 2 to 4 students. Direct each team to use the National Archives Catalog database to search the photographs of Lewis Hine. They only need to use the keyword "Lewis Hine." Challenge the students on each team to identify 10 photographs that they feel best tell the story of child labor during the early 1900s. Teams should download their chosen photographs and create multimedia presentations for the class explaining and defending their choices. Explain that the evaluation will be based on their use of the Internet, incorporation of multimedia, and understanding of child labor issues at the turn of the century.

The phographs included in this project are from Record Group 102, Records of the Department of Commerce and Labor, Children's Bureau. They are available online through the National Archives Catalog National Archives Identifiers:


Each is accompanied by a significant caption written by Lewis Hine.

The National Archives Catalog replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.

The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the National Archives Catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.

Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the National Archives Catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the National Archives Catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the National Archives Catalog will grow continually.

This article was written by Linda Darus Clark, a teacher at Padua Franciscan High School in Parma, Ohio.

Return to Lesson Main Page