Lamplighters, child laborers. Pittsburgh, ca. 1900-10
A group of male laborers, primarily boys and young men. Pittsburgh, ca. 1900-1910. Presumed to be lamplighters, a few hold lighting posts in the back row and a two-prong torch leaning against the faded door on the left side, ladder propped on the right. 16 children sitting on the ground and 36 men in various stances. Many of the boys look like they could have been plucked out of one of Lewis Hine's influential photographs of child laborers.
Notably, Lewis Hine would have actually been in the area around or shortly after the time this photo was taken. His work on The Pittsburgh Survey began in 1908, documenting the lives and working conditions in one of America's robust urban industrial centers. Hine's photographs were one of the most powerful instigators of Progressive Era reforms regarding child labor and health and safety conditions for workers.
Albumen photograph, 4.75 x 8 inches, mounted on heavy card. No date or identification, ca. 1900-1910, Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania. In Good to Very Good condition with damage generally limited to the card backing--discolored tidemark along the bottom edge and light overall soil, fading in the upper left corner. Housed in an old goldish-green painted wood frame with crude glass glazing. Frame in fair condition, adorned with an incomplete set of corner ornaments.
Incredibly evocative and visually rich with a great assortment of fashions, postures, and expressions, each figure worthy of individual inspection. A glare emanates from around the unhappiest-looking child, whose expression could probably burn the sun itself. Other figures appear proud, irritated, cocky, dutiful, tired; some dressed for the photo as if by their mothers, others indifferently clad or inconvenienced by the occasion. Young men with their hats and mustaches, some with better places to be, girls to talk to, running around to do, and all with many evenings' worth of stories to tell.