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Some Doffer Boys: 1909

Some Doffer Boys: 1909

January 1909. Macon, Georgia. "Some doffer boys." For those of us rusty on our cotton mill terminology, the job entailed the removal ("doffing") and replacement of thread bobbins when they were empty. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine for the National Child Labor Commission. View full size.


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Future war vets?

Since this is only 8 years before America entered WWI, these young men would have been draft age. It would be interesting to learn how many of the boys Lewis Wickes Hine photographed served in WWI, as Shorpy did.

Proud of his knife!

The knife the young man is displaying is called a melon tester. It was a single blade, long bolstered knife very popular back in these days. A bolster is the silver area where blade is secured/attached and pivots in the handle. These older ones were usually nickel silver.

The interesting thing about this picture I think is the knife has a false edge on top. This was originally designed for stabbing; of course in this model it would have been melons. Later on they used this design in war knives. You can tell he was so proud of his little melon tester - he wanted to show it. I hope he did not lose it later on.

Notice the collars on their shirts are buttoned tight with the exception of one. Wonder why back then almost all kept shirt collars buttoned up tight ?

Young boy...much older face

Amazing that the face of the young boy on the left could be superimposed onto a middle aged man, and it wouldn't look out of place.

Don't Mess With Us!

Despite their youthful appearance, and the dire poverty ingrained in their eyes, this is not a group of boys to get riled up: Take note of the half open knife in the hands of the boy on the left. Obviously a "work tool", but there is a sinister unspoken warning there too.

It got better, then not

I live in the Carolinas in the heart of "linthead" country where abandoned mills blight towns big and small. Children were often employed in these mills working long hours in hot, dusty, noisy, and dangerous conditions. Child labor laws eliminated this problem, but what is sad is that now these jobs have moved overseas where many children are working these jobs again. Just something to keep in mind when you're buying those new jeans.

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