Skip to content

Historical Photos of Child Labor in NC Textile Mills

During the late 19th and early 20th century, the few laws prohibiting child labor were moderate and rarely enforced.

In North Carolina, the age limit was 13 for employment in factories such as mills, and children under 18 were allowed to work up to a shocking 66 hours per week! Mill owners had to “knowingly and willfully” break these laws before they could be convicted.

Even more lenient laws were in place in South Carolina, where the age limit for factory workers was 12 years old. However, orphans and children with “dependent” parents (those too sick to work) could work at any age and any amount of hours.

These laws were rarely, if ever, enforced. Former child workers remember scrambling to hide in closets on the few occasions when factory inspectors would visit to check on working conditions in the mill.


Clicking on a thumbnail will bring up the photo in full size
and you may then toggle through at your own pace.


Source: US Slave Blogspot


  1. I wrote several post concerning the history of the unions and the horrific child labor standards prior to the unions. Children as young a s 6 worked the mines, textile industries, farms and plantation, and virtually every where adults worked and died at unbelievable numbers or were injured and maimed. The working conditions were deplorable and adult laborers fared little better. Black workers had it even worse…The breaking of the unions allows for the roll back of many of the laws we take for granted, and we better be really careful when we think we would never allow those conditions to exist in America today. Because the reality each time we step back a tad for those days republican harken so much for we become blind and complacent and the next thing we know that statement everyone thought was so far fetched of Newt Gingrich concerning making poor children as young as 7 work the closer it becomes not so far fetched not such a crazy notion. The unions are very needed they gave us workmen comp, minimum wage, vacation time, a reasonable work week, and corporations and their toadies have been working to destroy the power of the union ever since.

    • It frightens me because in may areas I see our country regressing rather than progressing. And worker’s rights seem to be one of the “going backwards” items because the corporations are taking over the country and destroying anything in their path in order to make more of a profit. I’m not real “up” on union conflict simply because I have had not interaction with any personally, nor anyone that I am close with. However, I have seen what life is like for many of the coal mine workers in WV as I have family in that area. I honestly cannot imagine what the hell is going through Newt’s mind to actually consider putting children to work!

  2. The good old days, huh? Unions may have some negative issues, but I’d far rather have them than not have them, and have the weak and the poor at the mercy of the most ruthless businesses and corporations.

  3. Whether we have the unions are not, I am thankful for how far we have come. I was looking at the labor/wage standards at textile mills abroad when I came across this post. In the U.S., we know that our textile laborers are treated more humanely than that of their overseas counterparts. That is why I choose to use U.S. textiles. Child labor in the textile industry may be a thing of the past in the U.S., but it is alive and well in many other parts of the world. I don’t think Newt could children back to work (even if he was serious).

Go ahead... I can hear your thoughts. Please share with the rest!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: