Author: Ishraq Khan

Lewis W. Hine: Workers, Empire State Building (1931)


This iconic photograph shows up many times when people discuss the history of New York City because of its relevance to our skyscrapers and the people (mainly immigrants) that built them. The men on the beams are all Irish natives that came to Manhattan in search for a better life during grim economic times. Hine actually took the photo during the Great Depression. I feel like this shows how desperate people were to get work, regardless of the safety issues. As you can see, none of the men are wearing any type of safety gear, so just one misstep while they are working could lead to their deaths.

Lewis W. Hine: Breaker Boys (1910)

This photograph emphasizes the bleakness associated with child labor during the early 1900s. A breaker boy is a child who separates good quality coal from other impurities to feed the burners and engines of the technology of the age of the steam engine. Hine exposes the harsh working conditions of these breaker boys in an attempt to fight for social reform, a very vital subject in New York’s history. Just looking at the soot and dirt on their emotionless faces shows how horrible child labor really was, and this picture helped bring that issue to the public.