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Topper in the Beets: 1915

Topper in the Beets: 1915

Oct. 30, 1915. "12-year-old Lahnert boy, near Fort Collins, Colorado, topping beets. The father, mother and two boys (9 and 12) expect to make $700 in two months' time in the beet work. 'The boys can keep up with me all right, and all day long,' the father said. Begin at 6 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. with hour off at noon. Several smaller children do not work. See Hine Report for studies of work done by these and other children." Glass negative by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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The bad old days

Thank heavens this awful, muddy, hard work is mechanized now. The order is changed a little, though, the beets are now topped before they are plucked from the ground. Still it's an all hands, 24 hour as long as the weather is cool, job that happens every year.

How it's done today, at least in Minnesota:

Beet Farm

Schrute Farms has nothing on this place.

How to Top a Beet

Montana State College wanted you to know how, in English, Spanish, and German.

Topper In The Beets

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. My research indicates that this boy was Alexander Lahnert. He was born in Missouri in 1903, and died in Colorado in 1985. In 1916, Lewis Hine took many photos of families that were working on beet farms in and around Fort Collins and Greeley, Colorado. Most of these families did not own the farms they were working on, and lived in temporary housing for the harvest season, and then lived in rented housing in Greeley and Fort Collins the rest of the year. The Lahnerts were natives of Missouri. It is interesting that many of the beet farm workers at that time were native Germans that had been living in Russia. I wrote a story about the Rommel family, of Fort Collins, also photographed by Hine in 1916. They were German natives from Russia also. The story includes considerable information about the history of Germans from Russia who settled in the US.

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