Friday May 31, 2013 | by laguiri

Glass Curiosities: Lewis Hine’s child-labor photos document the early 20th-century American glass in

FILED UNDER: Curiosities

Lewis Hine, Glass Blower and Mold Boy. Boy has 4 1/2 hours of this at a stretch, then an hour’s rest and 4 1/2 more: cramped position. Day shift one week: night shift next. (see label on photo 162.) Grafton, W. Va. Location: Grafton, West Virginia. 1908 October

Best known for his images of children who worked in other perilous trades—as textile factory workers or oyster shuckers, for example—photographer Lewis Hine took more than 150 photographs of children employed in American glass and bottling factories, a fraction of the roughly 5,000 photographs he took to document working and living conditions for the National Child Labor Committee.

In factories in eight states, including Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, Hine documented youth employed as “holding-mold boys,” who would crouch down for hours at a time to open and close molds for adult glassblowers. Others worked as “ketchin-up boys,” standing next to pressers to take tumblers from molds. Many covered several miles a shift as “carrying-in boys” to bring recently blown objects to annealing ovens elsewhere in the factory. Hine also turned his lens on young girls wrapping and packing glassware in several factories. He recorded a range of wages from 70 cents to $1.25 per day (roughly $16 to $30 today), taking thorough notes related to each image.


All images are from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click here to view all of Hine’s photographs of the glassblowing industry.

—Grace Duggan

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.