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The Lewis Hines Project

Posted by Joshua Glenn  January 29, 2008 01:31 PM

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Thanks to the Brainiac item on the Library of Congress's crowdsourcing project, I've heard from Joe Manning, a Florence, Mass.-based freelance journalist, historian, and genealogist.

Manning, author of "Steeples: Sketches of North Adams," wanted to alert me to his Lewis Hine Project, a quixotic effort to track down the names and stories of the child laborers photographed by the well-known photojournalist Lewis Wickes Hine. Between 1908 and 1917, Hine took thousands of pictures for the National Child Labor Committee, exposing the dangerous and unhealthy conditions that children endured working at mills, mines, farms, canneries, and as late-night "newsies" on urban streets. Hine died in 1940; about 5,000 of his photos -- many of which don't provide the subject's name -- are viewable on the Library of Congress website.

Manning's project is quixotic, but his diligence has paid off: He's already found the descendants of over 80 of Hines's subjects, not to mention some of the former children themselves. Manning's interviews with the folks he's located are posted to his website, along with any family photos they've provided.

Idas Joseph Crepeau, at work in a North Adams mill, in 1911:


Crepeau at age 70:


The Lewis Hine Project has been so successful that Manning recently started working on some of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photos taken by Dorothea Lange, John Vachon, and other famous photographers.

Are you descended from a child laborer? Maybe Manning has already identified him or her. Check out his list of names.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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