Canary Wanted


1908 - Photo by Lewis Hine - Library of Congress

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I have been at the bottom of the deep dark mine these past few days, and haven’t felt much like writing.

The photo above sums up the mood nicely. It’s a picture taken just 100 years ago, September 1908. The boy in the photo is Vance Palmer, he is 15 years old. He worked in a West Virginia Coal Mine as a trapper. What his job entailed was sitting on the bench by the door, and opening and closing it to let the mule driven carts through. This controlled the ventilation in the mine. That little alcove behind him is where he stood when the door was open, to let the team past. This photo, like so many that I have found in the Library of Congress archives, is a reminder of how much life in the United States has changed in a relatively short span of time. 100 years is not that long ago, but this photo seems to be from another Universe.

If you want to read more about Vance’s story, go to this link. It’s a site called “Mornings on Maple Street” where Joe Manning, a writer, genealogist, historian, and poet, has been working through the 5,000 photo collection of Lewis Hine, the photographer who took the photo above, and many others of Child Laborers in the early 20th Century. On this wonderful site he researches the children named in the photos to find out about their stories, and what became of them. This is truly amazing work. I am awed by the depth, and the breadth of this undertaking.

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