Lewis Wickes Hine, 1874-1940 / Library of Congress

N.C. Spinner. A moment's glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. Location: Lincolnton, North Carolina. 1908 November.

Mystery of iconic 1908 child labor photo is solved

Published: Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 - 11:44 am

She was a little girl of 9 or 10, staring out a window in the Lincolnton cotton mill where she worked.

Lewis Hine – the father of American documentary photography – captured the haunting image of the too-young textile employee in 1908.

It became one of the historic pictures among more than 5,000 he made while working for the National Child Labor Committee, documenting abuses of child labor laws in textiles and other industries.

Most of Hine’s caption information included names, but the Lincolnton girl was identified only as a “spinner” at the Rhodes Manufacturing Co. A second photo of her in the same mill with an older girl and a woman also had no names.

Now, a Massachusetts researcher who has tracked down descendants of 350 people in the Hine photos believes he’s solved the mystery of both images.

Author and historian Joe Manning spent five years trying to find the names of the people in the Lincolnton photos. He posted the pictures on his website and ran an ad in the Lincolnton Times-News, but got no responses.

Read the complete story

Read more articles by Joe DePriest

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