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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:

JoeCrepeau1911.jpg

Crepeau at age 70:

JoeCrepeau65-70YearsOld.jpg.w240h309.jpg

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.
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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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