It’s hard to fathom now, but children did a lot of work in the 19th century and early 20th century city.
They sewed garments, hawked newspapers, shelled nuts, made artificial flowers (above, in 1908) and delivered heavy packages, navigating streets and strangers (below, on Bleecker Street, 1912, by Lewis Hine).
Below, newsboys and bootblacks on Mulberry Bend
“By the late 1800s, states and territories had passed over 1,600 laws regulating work conditions and limiting or forbidding child labor,” explains historyplace.com. “In many cases the laws did not apply to immigrants, thus they were often exploited and wound up living in slums working long hours for little pay.”
Above: a newsboy and a newsgirl at City Hall, 1896
“In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, better known as the Federal Wage and Hour Law. . . . It prohibited child labor under age 16 while allowing minors 16 and over to work in non-hazardous occupations.”
“Children aged 14 and 15 could be employed in non-manufacturing, non-mining, and non-hazardous occupations outside of school hours and during vacations for limited hours.”
Above: A tired-looking bag peddler on First Avenue and 13th Street in 1935