Child labor still occurs today; actually we even wrote an inventory about it. But going back through the history of Christendom (what we might largely consider the West these days) we see an almost constant use of young boys for the worst jobs we’ve to supply. Jobs that adult men either didn’t want, or weren’t equipped for in quite an equivalent way (due to being too big for example). This list takes a visit through relatively recent history to explore ten of the worst jobs we’ve made our boys endure.
Farming as employment for youngsters remains, to the present day, an enormous a part of life on family-owned farms, but within the past children would work wherever they might and for whomever they might. That meant back-breaking laborious hours under the blistering sun being paid a pittance. Without parents responsible, little leniency was offered when a boy fell ill or was overwhelmed by the work. this is often an industry that also hired many ladies for fewer arduous jobs like sorting of fruit and vegetables.
Children provided extremely cheap (and sometimes nearly free) labor for farmers who had profit margins that were minuscule in extremely difficult times. Not only was Depression raging, but the geographical area was forming and therefore the world was reeling from the aftermath of the Good War . . . and readying itself, perhaps subconsciously, for the subsequent one.
Child labor was largely led to the US in 1938 as a part of the efforts to affect the good Depression. it had been reasoned that by banning children from work, unemployed men would be ready to take up those jobs. Combined with laws to compel the payment of upper wages also as unionizing efforts in certain industries, it had the specified effect, and youngsters were, for the primary time in modern history, allowed to be children.
Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the Madeline series of books for youngsters, described the lives of the Piccolos in his fantastic book When You Lunch With The Emperor. The book is about his youth as am immigrant boy from Austria working within the NY Ritz during the good depression. The book recounts vivid and seedy tales from the underbelly of the ny Ritz where he worked as a young man during the good Depression, after emigrating from Austria-Hungary.
“The child piccolo is an establishment altogether European restaurants. His head barely reaches above the table; his ears are red and stand out, because everybody pulls them. And when he’s a person he will still pull his head quickly to at least one side if anyone on the brink of him suddenly moves, because he always did that to melt the blows that rained on him from the proprietor right down to the last chambermaid; they hit him mostly out of habit.” He goes on to add: “[W]hen one sees [ . . . ] one among those old waiters [ . . . ] leaning on a chair, with ugly lightless eyes and a dead face that’s crammed with misery and meanness, one is seeing that tiny boy grown old, with flat crippled feet on which he has dragged almost to the top of his useless life his dead childhood.”
The piccolo worked from 6 am till 11 pm and his job was to try to everything undesirable that nobody else wanted to try to to. He cleaned the ashtrays. He scraped the old food from plates. He folded newspapers, washed dishes, carried water, and spent half the day bowing to his superiors. Despite this, the work of the piccolo was, for a boy at the time, not the worst option available to him as we shall see.
The 1993 film King of the Hill (unrelated to the animated TV series) is predicated on the lifetime of a young boy forced by circumstances to become a piccolo. it’s considered to be Steven Soderbergh’s most underrated picture, so it’s worth a glance.
An apprenticeship for a boy typically began between the ages of ten and fourteen. Continuing with the words of Ludwig Bemelmans above: “[T]he piccolo was looked upon with envy by the apprentices of plumbers and cobblers; that they had the red ears, too, but not enough to eat, and no cigarettes, no drinks, no tips.” Considering that within the middle ages a boy had to pay to become an apprentice, it had been something of a novelty that he would even be purchased the work within the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nevertheless, it had been difficult work, and punishments were liberally delivered by the tradesmen who took these boys on. But, unlike many of the opposite jobs on this list, there was a minimum of an inexpensive certainty that upon competition of your apprenticeship, an honest job with an equally good pay awaited you. Such an opportunity in such times of hunger and poverty would have seemed a real blessing to the boys “lucky” enough to finish up in training. My how the planet has changed!
7 Cannery Worker
Working within the canneries meant standing for hours within the freezing Atlantic winters chopping, packing, and hauling fish and other foods. Canning was still a reasonably young enterprise and like numerous other jobs on this list, needed an enormous workforce of unskilled laborers. Children, just like the boy above, aged nine, were paid up to 5 cents per box that they processed.
Notwithstanding the risks of working in such terrible conditions (terrible enough for grown men!) the boys were also required to handle extremely dangerous cutting tools and canning machines designed to slice and seal the metal. One can only imagine the casualties that might have emerged from the sheds and boatyards where these boys worked.
Unfortunately many of those industries hiring young boys were travel by do-gooders. Men (and sometimes women) who felt they were providing a far better life for the kid by offering them labor. This definitely brings to mind the famous quote of C.S. Lewis who said “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the great of its victims could also be the foremost oppressive. it might be better to measure under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those that torment us for our own good will torment us ad infinitum for they are doing so with the approval of their own conscience.”
6 Bootblack (Shoeshine Boy)
There is an anecdote that tells us that Joe Kennedy (former President Kennedy’s father), upon being given stock tips from a shoeshine boy realized that if a child who polished dirty old boots for a living could trade stock within the market, it’d be time to urge out of it! He immediately sold all of his stock and avoided the huge market crash subsequent day that launched the good Depression.
Anecdotes aside though, the work of bootblack was a troublesome one. The boys involved frequently fought others within the same trade for his or her corner, and you’ll imagine how vicious that would get when starving children are involved. the work would produce only enough money to measure, which meant that it had been a seven day every week gig, rain or shine. But, for those that were ready to acquire the expensive polish and kit needed, it had been a much better option than many of the others at the time.
The very first recorded image of an individual is that of a person having his shoes polished by a bootblack. The photo was taken in 1838 and you’ll see it here. The people are within the lower left quadrant. At the time of the photo, Gregory XVI was Pope; he was the last pontiff who was an easy priest when elected (he was ordained a Bishop four days after he became Pope). He was the Pope who condemned and forbade participation within the Atlantic slave traffic .
Another bootblack-related fact is that the character of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson within the brilliant television series Boardwalk Empire credited his rapid rise to the reading of the book for boys called Ragged Dick or Street Life in ny with the Boot Blacks. Unlike the characters within the TV Series, the book is real and was written by Alger Jr. in 1867. It tells the story of young Dick who starts life as a bomber on the streets of latest York black boots, and his lifting himself up through perseverance, thrift, and cleverness.
Ragged Dick’s bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) was immensely popular at the time of publication because it typified the great character that each one boys sought to achieve. Books like these epitomized the American Dream. I cannot recommend them enough—to modern teenaged boys and grown men alike for the sheer pleasure of their reading. you’ll buy them here. Ad Astra per Aspera!
5 Cotton Mill Worker
The invention of the gin, and a spread of other mechanical devices soon after was a Godsend within the post-slavery west. The American war and therefore the abolition of the slave traffic by Republican Lincoln led to a shortage of cotton in Europe which verged on a crisis for the state. But, as life returned somewhat to normal within the states with a replacement approach to the cultivation and picking of cotton, the economic inventions brought things back to their peak and beyond.
The new machines were faster than a person, more accurate than a person, but far deadlier. There was a really real risk of loss of life or limb through the utilization of the gin and spinning machines. Safety mechanisms weren’t considered important and oversight within the factories was lacking. And, kids being kids, occasional mishaps were sure to happen. Pictured here is twelve-year-old Giles Newsom in 1912 who had two fingers ripped out of his hand by a textile machine within the textile mill. He had slipped and his arm got caught within the gears of the machine. Giles’ eleven-year-old brother was also working within the factory at an equivalent time.
The reaction from his family to the accident is quite incongruous with our modern principles: “Now he’s jes need to where he might be of some help to his ma an’ then this happens and he can’t never work no more like he oughter.” This apparently-heartless quote from the boy’s aunt underscores how truly important child labor was to family survival within the days before central banking and straightforward credit. Or, perhaps the aunt was simply sending a message to the mill owner to cough-up bigly in compensation.
Child soldiers are known to exist today, but this is often true going right back to the past when the Romans regularly hired boys as young as fourteen for the overall army. In recent times (for example El Salvador within the 1990s) boys fought for the rebel troops and lots of child soldiers were seen across the Balkan region during their troubles.
The most shocking example of an historic nature is that of Momcilo Gavric, the seven-year-old boy who was accepted into a Serbian military unit and made a corporal a year later at the age of eight. He joined thanks to being orphaned when his family was killed within the war. He assisted the military within the destruction of the troops who had taken the lives of his parents. After the war he was sent to England to high school but he returned in time and remained in Serbia until his death aged 86 in 1993. Many monuments are erected to his memory.
Despite the fairy-tale story of Momcilo Gavric’s life, children within the military may be a terrible situation that ought to be prevented and fortunately most nations (at least western ones) have laws against the utilization of youngsters in battle.
One of rock bottom jobs on this list is, tragically, one most often seen still today and maybe performed in even greater frequency than within the overdue to the key nature of the many online apps and websites abused for the aim . Child prostitution is most often related to girls but it’s equally common and harmful amongst boys. In Victorian England, Jack Saul caused a scandal when he announced himself, shamelessly, as a “sodomite” and “a professional Mary-ann” in court at the age of 18, admitting to an already long and prosperous career as a rent boy (indicating that he had begun within the profession back in Ireland as a child). Rumors circulated that one among his clients was the handsome Prince Albert, a mere seven years older than he and therefore the eldest grandson of Victoria , then reigning.
Interestingly this is often an equivalent Prince Albert who has repeatedly been touted as having been Jack The Ripper. He died at 28 of the Spanish flu pandemic. Prostitution was particularly common amongst Catholic boys during a time when “Papists” were seriously discriminated against in England by law. Additionally, many of the youngsters who took part during this occupation would are practically enslaved for the aim by pimps and street gangs. lately many of the boys involved are runaways with only a few options for earning money legally thanks to child labor laws and absent families. Pictured are two boy prostitutes haggling with potential customers in Times Square, New York, within the 1970s.
2 Mine Worker
While we are busy fretting over our youngsters playing video games or binge-watching disturbing YouTube videos once they should be out playing within the sun, we should always spare an idea for the boys of days gone who spent their entire childhood deep beneath the surface of the planet performing menial tasks for the lads who labored to bring coal to the surface to stay the machinery of the world turning.
These children (such because the boy pictured in 1908 with an oil-wick lamp attached to his cap) worked from 7 am to 5:30 pm daily within the mines driving the animals that pulled the wagons of coal, opening and shutting doors that kept the miners safe from potential hazards should they arise, or basically performing any task assigned to them that their small bodies or hands were more suited to than those of adult men.
While our youngsters have the promise of a way forward for opportunities, the boys who worked these mines had no future beyond that of lung disorders and hard labor for a lifetime. which was the great news; the bad news was that you simply ran the danger, daily, of being killed by a mine-collapse. The eyes of the kid pictured here cannot hide his acute awareness of that fact.
1 Chimney Sweep
The tragic life of the chimney sweep only too often led to death. Alas the danger of death was deemed a necessary evil because the lack of unpolluted chimneys would are catastrophic on a far larger scale for city-dwellers through uncontrolled fires and freezing temperatures. In fact, it had been the good Fire of London in 1666 that led to the adoption of boys (some as young as four) for the task. the small boys were purchased from their parents and made into tiny chimneys with brushes to try to employment that was otherwise impossible thanks to the sharp angles and considerable length of some chimneys.
On an honest day a young chimney sweep would clean chimneys through all the daylight, then retire to a miserable meal sleeping on the ground of his master’s own decrepit lodgings. Standing on top of a roof as he prepared to comb the primary chimney of the day, every day, he would know that the sunrise he was seeing may be his last as there was a really real possibility that this chimney might be the one to finally kill him: by fall, by suffocation, or by becoming stuck tight.
In a horribly sad twist on an already tragic tale, the bodies of the many of those innocent children remain entombed throughout London within the chimneys that killed them. There has even been speculation that British Houses of Parliament are riddled with the corpses of dead boys. albeit the bodies were recovered, a scarcity of records during a time when the lifetime of a bomber was worth so little, it might impossible to attribute names to the dead.
An extremely good book on the topic is British Chimney Sweeps: Five Centuries of Chimney Sweeping and I do recommend it if you have an interest in this sordid side of the life of Victorian England.
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