Keep reading for the longer story.
I have long been enamored with Hine’s photography. If you are a lover of turn of the century photos (as I am), then you have probably run into more than one of his photos. Street urchin? Newspaper boy? Probably a Hine photo.
When I started doing more research into my family’s history and genealogy, I grew to love his work even more — particularly his child labor photos and more specifically, the ones of families and children working in and around canneries on the East Coast.
My grandfather’s father was born in Biloxi — though all his siblings were born in Maryland and they lived in Baltimore. His parents are listed as working in a packinghouse/cannery in Baltimore in the 1910 census. Further, there was a vague feeling that they were “migrant” workers. All of this leads me to believe the family worked for a few months of the year down in Mississippi.
At the turn of the century, the seafood industry in Biloxi was experiencing a boom and there was a great need for skilled labor to work in boats and at the canneries. But the owners didn’t want to have to train people. As it turned out, Baltimore was home to the most experienced laborers — most of them Polish. So, many Biloxi companies employed seasonal workers from Baltimore, providing them transportation via train, and housing near the cannery. Children worked alongside the women in the canneries and the men generally worked out oystering and shrimping.
When I see photos like the one of Rosie, or this one or the myriad others Hine took, I can’t help but imagine what it must have been like for the members of my family who most likely worked in such conditions.
More detail photos in my Flickr stream.