Skip to content
Little Miner




In the early years of the 20th century, children as young as eight years old worked in the coal mines. The work was hard and the "little boys" grew old and stooped before their time.

An 1885 law required boys to be at least twelve to work in the coal breakers and at least fourteen to work inside the mines. A 1902 law raised the age to fourteen to work in the breakers. Although child labor laws did not allow children under fourteen to work in the mines, some states did not have compulsory registration of birth. Boys were passed off as "small for their age".

The Children's Bureau was created within the Department of Commerce and Labor on April 9, 1912. It was transferred to the newly created Department of Labor on March 4, 1913. The first Federal Child Labor Law was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on September 1, 1916.

The following is a series of pictures and stories about children who worked long hours in this country's coal mines and the most common jobs they performed before child labor laws were passed.

* Most pictures in this exhibit were obtained from the National Archives, Lewis W. Hine collection.

Go To Next Page