An overseer and his underlings

An overseer and two small grimy boys face the camera in a textile mill.

An overseer and two grimy boy doffers face the photographer in a Birmingham, Alabama, textile factory.

The textile mill epitomized mechanized industry, which made humans servants of machines.  Textile manufacture was one of the earliest industries in the US, one often associated with ‘sweated’ labor.  Exploitative practices reached an apogee in the late nineteenth-century American South, where mills employed black and white workers with no other prospects, drawing in many poor Appalachian families.  Conditions in the mills were such that workers (many of them children) were virtually enslaved.  Despite laboring incessantly, they lived in poverty, without recourse to their employer’s authority.  The overseer in this picture boasted of having 30 doffers to do his bidding.  The doffers’ job was to run to replace full spindles with empty ones to keep the looms running smoothly.

This picture was taken in November 1910.

Library of Congress photograph by Lewis Hine.

Boy-powered ice-sweepers

Boys with ice-shovels pose for their pictures while clearing snow off a pond.

For the most part, boys who wanted to skate had to clear the ice themselves.

Ice rinks, though not unheard of, were far fewer in number and far less interesting than frozen waterways, whether rivers or ponds; and, for the better part of a century, most American skaters enjoyed their sport in such natural settings.

Here, boys of various ages pose with their shovels while clearing the ice in Washington DC.  Half-pose for the camera, I should say, for, while cooperating, still they couldn’t quite stifle their pure excitement and joy, their clowning and jostling frozen forever, along with their readiness to have a good time.

Despite differences in headgear, the skaters’ dress is fairly uniform: their knee-length trousers terminating above long wool stockings and lace-up skates.  Most wear jackets rather than long overcoats, and a few wear ties!  In the vanguard, an earnest-looking boy wears a serious woolen hat, its folds covering his ears, neck, and chin in a heavy cowl.

The knee-length pants were known as knickers.  Their uniform usage in this photograph suggests that it was taken in the nineteen-teens.

Image: from this source
Click image to enlarge.

This is the fifth in an occasional series on ice-skating.  Click here to read from the beginning.