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Lewis Hine and Child Labor Reform 

As the number of children employed in industrial occupations was increasing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries so there was a reaction against it based on health, educational, social and religious rationales. Edgar Gardner Murphy (1869-1913), who had served as priest of the Episcopal Church for twelve years, saw the dangers of unfettered child labor and proposed a National Child Labor Committee bringing together different groups with similar motivations.
On 25th April 1904 a meeting was held at Carnegie Hall in New York City to address the plight of working children. It was at that meeting that the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was established. By 1907 the organisation had gained considerable support and it was charted by an Act of Congress.
To raise public awareness in early 1908 they hired Lewis Hine to photograph working children and it was appreciated that his images and supporting notes would serve as documentary evidence of the appalling working conditions of young workers. By 1912 a Children‘ Bureau was established in both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor which indicated progress but laws were introduced at the state or city level resulting in a patchwork of differing standards and enforcement. It was not until Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that child labor was effectively banned or regulated nationwide.
In 1954, to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary, the National Child Labor Committee presented to the Library of Congress official records, correspondence, speeches, reports, press releases, and clippings from the period 1904 to 1953. This resource is regarded as one of the most significant documentary projects in the history of photography.
With thanks to Frédéric Perrier for his enthusiasm for the crusading work of Lewis Hine. 



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