From the Industrial Revolution through the 1930s was a period in which children worked in a wide variety of occupations.
Similarly, in America, productive outlets were sought for children.
Colonial laws modeled after British laws sought to prevent children from becoming a burden on society.
The ad stated, “It is hoped that those citizens having a knowledge of families, having children destitute of employment, will do an act of public benefit by directing them to the institution [cotton mill].” In New England, the allure of employing children in the mills was thought by one editorial writer to be so strong that it led parents to choose its settlements versus the less developed Western frontier where no such job opportunities existed. it would make an immediate difference of $13,500 a year to the value produced in the town!
calculated that if a mill were to employ 200 children from the age of 7 to 16 “that [previously] produced nothing towards their [own] maintenance . ” Although the economic value of work for children was emphasized, its perceived underlying benefit was also important in its growth in the 19th century.
magazine recounts a story once told of an old Native American chieftain.
The chieftain was given a tour of the modern city of New York.In other locations, the primary motivation in employing children was not about preventing their idleness but rather about satisfying commercial interests and the desire to settle the vast American continent.As economic tensions increased between England and the American colonies, the desire for an independent manufacturing sector in America became more pronounced.Upon the completion of the chieftain’s journey, several Christian men asked him, “What is the most surprising thing you have seen?” The chieftain replied slowly with three words: “little children working.”Although the widespread presence of laboring children may have surprised the chieftain at the turn of the 20th century, this sight was common in the United States at the time.This value was seen in the nature of the outreach that some organizations such as the Charles Loring Brace Children’s Aid Society (CAS) provided to orphaned children.In establishing its first lodging house for boys in 1854, the CAS emphasized that it would “treat the lads as independent little dealers and give them nothing without payment.” Through avoiding the prospect of idle children, CAS thought it was avoiding “the growth of a future dependent class.” The success of these children was judged by how much they worked for the Western families that took them in.The subsequent advance of capitalism created new social pressures.Now that more work was less complex because of the introduction of machines, children had more potential job opportunities.For example, one industrialist in 1790 proposed building textile factories around London to employ children to “prevent the habitual idleness and degeneracy” that were destroying the community.With the advances in machinery, not only could society avoid the issue of unproductive children, but also the children themselves could easily create productive output with only their rudimentary skills.