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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Simon Birdsong: 1914

Simon Birdsong: 1914

November 1914. Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Rosemary Manufacturing Co. Two violations. Simon Birdsong, left hand boy. "I'm about 12." His mother said: "He's old enough to work all right," but the boy admitted that she had to sign up that he was older than he was. He appears to be 10. Has had job doffing for several weeks. Could not write his own name. Has had no schooling after the 1st grade. Wylie Haw (right hand boy). Mother says he is 12 years old now. Been working 1 year. She is a widow. Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

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Simon Birdsong

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. The link to my story about Simon has changed. It is now:

Thank you, Joe

Your research always improves the excellent photos on this site.

What a Great Story

Thank you Joe (and Dave) for Simon's daughter's story. Her dad was surely a singular man and indeed fortunate that he had the grit and gumption to get out of the mills.

During the early 80's, I had to go to Roanoke Rapids nearly every month for my job with the State of N.C. Because of the huge paper mill there, you could smell the town half an hour before you got there. It was a big mill town, paper and textiles. I used to drive by the Rosemary plant, then part of J.P. Stevens Co., the site of violent unionization campaigns for decades. Roanoke Rapids was the home of Crystal Lee Sutton, the "real" Norma Rae.

When I went there, the town had a separate school district from the county and it's my belief that they would never enlarge the district or change the city limits, because the town was largely white and the county had a large African American population..

I used to carry an Instamatic on my trips around eastern N.C. I recall one particularly one I took in Roanoke Rapids. It may still be around here. I'll look for it.

So Much for Statistics

According to life-expectancy tables, Simon should not have lived beyond 50-55 years. He not only lived a full and very interesting life, he certainly lived a long one (90 years) in spite of starting work at such a young age. This, too, puts beliefs in the destructive nature of child labor in another light.

To Joe Manning: Your research makes everything come alive and for that I thank you.

Simon Birdsong: 1914

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. I have posted my story about Simon, including the interview with his daughter, and photos of Simon as an adult.

Re: Simon Birdsong

This is Joe Manning. I interviewed Simon's daughter, but I am not ready to publish the results as yet. It's a very interesting story.

Simon Birdsong

Any updates on Simon's daughter?

Simon Birdsong

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. This search sure didn't take long. I talked to Simon's daughter today. She didn't know about the photo. I will be interviewing her shortly. From what she's already told me, it looks like quite an amazing story.

[Thankyou thankyou. Keep us posted. - Dave]

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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