Child Labor in the 19th Century

By: Kobie Warrick

Jobs that Children Worked

  • The use of children working the coal mines attracted mining companies, the children were small, and it allowed them to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • At the factories children had no rights, children were given the dirtiest jobs which were cleaning under the machines while they were on.
  • One of the most dangerous jobs for children in the 1800's was being a chimney sweep. This job was brutal and dangerous because of the soot they breathed and getting stuck in the chimney.
  • Thousands of poor children worked as sellers in the street. Most of them were orphans working long hours to buy bread.

Food, Work Hours and Working Conditions

  • Children worked long hours a normal work week would be Monday through Saturday 6am to 8pm.
  • There was no education for the poor or orphan children so they could never get better paid jobs or working conditions.
  • When the children who were chimney sweeps had cuts and scrapes that were raw received treatment from their boss by pouring saltwater on the wound and sent back down the chimney.
  • Meals were limited and poor quality. Children were fed potato pairings and rotten vegetables a diet that made it difficult to grow from.

Children Eating in the Streets

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Accidents that often Happened

  • A constant fear in the coal mines was a cave in. Children were used to crawl through the small spaces often bent over for hours. The result as they got older was they developed permanent spine deformation.
  • Many of the children were killed when they fell asleep in the mine and were hit by a cart or they forgot to shut the trap door and poisonous gas leaked into the tunnel causing an explosion.
  • Falling was a major fear for a chimney sweeper as well as getting stuck. A fall or being stuck in the stack resulted in being left in the chimney by the boss to die.
  • Children often dosed off while working the machinery this led to many of them loosing limbs.

Punishment Children faced at Work

  • Children were left to die when stuck in the chimney.
  • They were fined for whistling, singing or leaving the work area untidy.
  • Children were imprisoned for stealing.
  • If they were late for work they were weighted. This meant that a weight was tied around their neck and they were forced to walk up and down the factory for at least and hour.

Factory Boss Whipping a Child

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Efforts to Improve/Stop Child Labor

  • National Society for the prevention of child cruelty. 1881 Thomas Agnew went to New York to advocate for child cruelty in the workplace.
  • 1842 Mines Act, No one under the age of fifteen was to be in charge of machinery. This act banned any underground boy or girl to be employed.
  • 1836 Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages, this allowed factory inspectors to check the ages of children working in factories (only applicable in England and Wales).
  • 1833 Factory Act, this banned children from working in textile factories under the age of nine. They were also limited to nine hours a day and 48 hours a week.

Picketing for Child Labor Rights

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