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Bottle Boy: 1909

Bottle Boy: 1909

November 1909. Wheaton Glass Works, Millville, N.J. "Day scene in New Jersey Glass House. Boy is Howard ____, 15 years old but has been in the glass works for two years, and has worked some at night." Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine for the National Child Labor Committee. View full size.


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Another occupational hazard

When I collected bottles as a kid, I remember reading an interview with a guy who had worked in a bottle factory in Jersey about the same time as this boy [and probably about the same age as well]. He said that after a number of years you could tell veteran glass blowers because "their cheeks hung down like sacks".

He went on to add that the introduction of the automatic bottle machine in 1903 eliminated that problem.

Antique Wheaton Glass is highly collectible.

Perhaps every antique Wheaton bottle sold should come with a copy of the Lewis Hines' series of photopgraphs taken at the factory.

Wheaton Glass is still in existence today, specializing in lab and scientific glassware, as well as bottles for all purposes.It has been one of the primary employers of the southern New Jersey region for decades. I had a good friend who worked summers during college at the Wheaton factory. He described it as potentially dangerous work, performed under blisteringly hot conditions. This was during the mid-1970s, when Wheaton was trying to meet OSHA standards that had just been introduced in the previous four or five years. He told me that the factory "old-timers' had plenty of horror stories about lung diseases and accidental burns that safety regulations in the workplace had helped to curb.

Child labor

Its amazing how many kids Hines photographed back then. I always wonder what he DIDN'T take a picture of.

Had any of you been a child worker back then, do you think you would have grown up to despise the company, or grown up to be proud of what you accomplished at such a young age?

Here is the story of a 9 year old boy that started working at the Hemingray Glass Co. in 1869, after his father died.

His employment with them went on to last over 70 years.

Regular shoes?

As I was told during a guided tour through a glass works in the Black Forest (Germany), glassblowers are just about the only workers actually required by work safety standards to use slippers.

Rationale is to get the foot out of the shoe PDQ if some of the melt (up to 1500 Centigrades or 2700 Fahrenheit) should drop from the blowpipe on the shoe. So they slog around in very fashionable slippers. Including steel caps - they are working shoes after all.

For an excellent story

For an excellent story that deals, in part, with the life of a boy in a glass factory in the early 1900s (as well as a Lewis Hine picture on the jacket!), I recommend "Billy Creekmore by Tracey Porter.

Trivia: Most of the character in the book were named after real kids who killed in mining, factory, and mill accidents.

Interestingly, I have never been able to find the Lewis Hine jacket picture in any online collection.

Bottle Boy: 1909

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. According to the 1910 US Census, there were four boys named Howard living in Millville who were about 16 years old and who worked in a glass factory. They were Howard Lee, Howard Facemire, Howard Atkinson, and Howard Sharpless (good name for a glass worker). So which Howard was this boy? According
to an unidentified researcher who posted a comment on the National Archives website, the boy was Howard Lee. I'll see what I can find.

Looks like a nice healthy enviroment.

Are those sheets of Asbestos one the table in front of that kid?

Paneful Irony

A glass factory with no visible windows. That is so ironic but seems cruel for these kids!

I must say I'm surprised at the shabby working conditions. I know Wheaton Glass, and assumed their workers worked in lovely light filled conditions. What a surprise.

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