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Saturday Noon: 1910

Saturday Noon: 1910

November 1910. Huntsville, Alabama. "Closing hour, Saturday noon, at Dallas Mill. Every child in photo, so far as I was able to ascertain, works in that mill. When I questioned some of the youngest boys as to their ages, they said they were 12, and then other boys said they were lying. (Which sentiment I agreed with.)" Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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H.L. Mencken referred to the poor Southern whites who migrated into Baltimore around this time as "lintheads." I suspect he didn't coin that nickname but that it reflected the prejudices of the time.

Blood Brothers

I LOVE Shorpy and cannot ignore it, almost hourly I have to have another look. In group shots, I enjoy trying to pick out family traits in the kids and it is quite apparent that the front row, second, third and fourth from the right, appear to be three brothers with the middle one being the bossy one, scolding the youngest who is stuffing something in his pocket. My mom was born that year and life was tough. Once you could walk and talk, you had to do something useful. Also, corporal punishment was meted out routinely, psychology was a smack delivered immediately. One can see these kids understood their responsibility to be a contributing member of the family, not just another mouth to feed. The person on the extreme right looks to me like a girl, with more delicate features, smaller hands, a girlie blouse and hat. Of course he may have had to wear "hand-me-downs" and had only older sisters which was quite humiliating. No joy, no Christmas "wish list" for these kids. Thanks Shorpy for the frequent reality checks on how lucky we are today.

Mill Boys

I know more than one kid who would much rather go to work at a job like this than go to school.

Some Look Happy

A lot of people are commenting that these boys look "tough" or old beyond their years. I think they just look like average boys! Some of them are even happy-looking, if not smiling!

Tough Crowd

These guys look like they could beat up my honor roll student.

It's a hard knock life...

Very old looking kids in this pic. Look at the second boy from the left in the light colored coat, 40 year old face on a 10 year old body. With that hat looks like a premonition of his role in WWI which is only 7 years away.

Boys to Men

These "kids" are prematurely men. Their hardscrabble faces mirror the toughness of their times. When I look at these pictures and then look at my high school students, what a shock! I've been showing some of these pics to said students to inform them of how good they've got it. Although with the economy in the dumper, they may have to repeat history.

That ain't bubblegum

Methinks I spot the telltale bulge of chewing tobacco in at least one cheek, maybe more. Of course, unlike kids today who would use the stuff to appear tough, I suspect these kids really were tough and this was just something they liked to do. No poseurs here.


What's all over their hats? or am I just seeing the photo age?

[It's lint from the cotton mill. - Dave]


"Which sentiment I agreed with."

I think he's saying that he agrees with the boys who accused the other boys of lying about their ages... but that's a really weird way to put it. Was he quoted incorrectly or did Hines just speak strangely?

[It's short for "which was a sentiment I agreed with." A standard locution, not "weird." - Dave]


Not a single boy's face doesn't look hardened in that image. It's haunting.


Looks like a pretty tough crowd.


I guess it wasn't worth the effort to try and get the lint off their clothes. They didn't have been those rolling lint brushes with their sticky surfaces to make the task easier. Then again, they had more on their minds.

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