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Breaker boys, Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pa

[Detail] Breaker boys, Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pa

Lesson Overview

Children have always worked, often exploited and under less than healthy conditions. Industrialization, the Great Depression and the vast influx of poor immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, made it easy to justify the work of young children. To gain a true understanding of child labor, both as an historical and social issue, students should examine the worlds of real working children. This unit asks students to critically examine, respond to and report on photographs as historical evidence. Students will discover the work of reformer/photographer Lewis Hine, whose photographs give the issue of child labor a dramatic personal relevance and illustrate the impact of photojournalism in the course of American history.


Students will:

  • develop an understanding of the importance of historical inquiry;
  • recognize the factors which contributed to the Industrial Revolution in the United States;
  • evaluate primary source materials as artifacts for greater understanding of the past;
  • function as historians by formulating their own questions from encounters with primary source documents and images;
  • identify the problems confronted by people in the past, analyze how decisions for action were made and propose alternative solutions;
  • understand that political, economic, and social history are connected; and
  • recognize the impact of citizen action on public policy.


Time Required

  • Two to three weeks

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12
  • 6-8


  • City & Regional History


  • Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900
  • Progressive Era to New Era, 1900-1929


Joyce Kasman Valenza and Carl Atkinson