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Willie and Fred: 1908

Willie and Fred: 1908

November 1908. Wylie Mill at Chester, S.C. Willie Crocker (barefoot), 13 yrs. old -- "worked since I was 6." Lost part of finger in gear of machinery. Fred Crocker, 11. One year in mill." View full size. Photo and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine.


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Willie and Fred: 1908

“I never knew my grandfather. He deserted my mother. He was married to my grandmother, Essie Crocker, who was seven months pregnant with my mother when he took off.”
-granddaughter of William Crocker

“He (William Crocker) often told the story that when he was young, he was drinking, got a gun, went into the mills, and shot up the looms. But later, he got saved and became an itinerant preacher. -wife of the minister of William Crocker’s church

“My father was a very kind man, very soft spoken. My mother and father were married 46 years, and I never heard them raise their voices.” –daughter of Fred Crocker

“Thanks to these poor children who were photographed, child labor laws were enacted. Being forced to work instead of going to school is most certainly why Fred never learned to read or write.” -niece of Fred Crocker

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. With regard to Willie, who died at the age of 97, this is one of the strangest stories I have come across in my research. Much of what I found out about him was a huge surprise to his descendants and friends. That’s because he was married twice (no children from the second), but no one I talked to knew about both marriages, only either the first or the second. Fred turned out to be a straight ahead guy who was adored by his daughter. The whole story, plus photos and interviews can be seen at

Willie's Great-Grandson

Novilla, Willie's daughter, was my grandmother. My dad was the only boy she had out of six kids. His name is Joe Smith, but not really a Smith at all. We don't know who his father was. Novilla was an incredible woman who like most Southern women held many secrets. Also could you send me info concerning her mother's race? She was not white. Thank you!

-- Jamie Smith

Tom and Huck

These boys could've been in 1837. For hundreds of years poverty has never been addressed let alone dealt with. Can you imagine an era that looked no different from 100 years before. Shocking and detestable.

[In 1837 they would have been working in the fields. It's technology and industry that lifted people out of poverty. - Dave]

Willie and Fred

This is Joe Manning, of the Lewis Hine Project. I found some interesting information about Willie. He died in the late 1920s. He was married at the time, and had one daughter, Novilla, who was born in 1923. I have talked to one of Novilla's daughters, and will be talking to another soon. They never knew their grandfather Willie, of course, but have some stories to tell. More later.

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