Skip to main content
Select Source:

Hine, Lewis (1874−1940)

Hine, Lewis (18741940)

Lewis W. Hine was a pioneer of social documentary photography. His most sustained and influential body of work consists of over 5,000 photographs made between 1906 and 1918 for the National Child Laborommittee (NCLC) publicizing the prevalence and harshness of child labor in the United States. Born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Hine first took up photography around 1903 as an extension of his work as a teacher at the Ethical Culture School in New York City. A Progressive educator, he soon came to embrace the camera as a tool of "social uplift" a generation before the social-activist photographers and filmmakers of the 1930s coined the term documentary.

In 1904, Hine began taking photographs on Ellis Island, portraying, in a dignified and sympathetic fashion, a representative sampling of the great influx of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. These images, made under difficult circumstances with bulky, primitive equipment, presented a powerful, humanist argument for open immigration at a time when nativist sentiment against the foreign-born was on the rise.

Hine's work for the NCLC took him to thirty-one states and the District of Columbia. He photographed from Maine to Texas, in the Plains states and the Far West, documenting children of all ages engaged in wage labor as textile workers, telegraph messengers, street vendors, newsboys, mine workers, glass workers, oyster shuckers, shrimp pickers, sardine packers, cigar makers, cigarette rollers, garment workers, lacemakers, and agricultural laborers. Hine's photographs were accompanied by meticulous field notes detailing the relevant sociological data: names and ages of the children, time and place of employment, hours worked, wages earned, length of employment, working conditions, and family circumstances.

As an impassioned middle-class reformer, he sought to convince an enfranchised liberal audience, by way of incontrovertible empirical evidence, of the harmful effects of child labor. At the time, both business leaders and working-class parents defended the social efficacy and economic necessity of child labor. Hine's photographs originally appeared on posters and in newspapers, bulletins, and periodicals advocating national legislation that would abolish most forms of commercial child labor and mandate a public-school education for all working-class children. However, despite compulsory education laws in most states, such policies were not enacted until the 1930s.

Hine worked mostly with a hand-held, wooden box camera, producing 4" × 5" and 5" × 7" glass-plate and film negatives from which he most often made contact prints, although enlargements were also common. Hine continued to make sociologically informed photographs for the remainder of his career, working for the American Red Cross in Europe during World War I and for the Survey, an early journal of social work. In 1930 he made a notable series of photographs documenting the construction of the Empire State Building. In this later phase of his career, Hine sought to portray in idealized terms what he came to see as the inherent dignity and heroic stature of the American worker and craftsperson.

As a freelance photographer without an independent income, Hine's work necessarily reflected the agendas of the clients for whom he worked. Just as Hine's NCLC photographs reflected the politics of that organization, so his 1933 photographs of the Shelton Looms, commissioned by its owner, represented the interests of management. That being said, Hine's child labor photographs were the result of a particularly fruitful and serendipitous conjunction of a talented and dedicated photographer with a well-organized and highly motivated social movement. Collectively, these images constitute an invaluable resource in the study of early-twentieth-century, working-class children in the United States. They have also served as a model and inspiration for documentary photographers.

See also: Economics and Children in Western Societies: From Agriculture to Industry; Photographs of Children; Progressive Education.


Aperture. 1977. America and Lewis Hine: Photographs 19041940. Millerton, NY: Aperture.

"Lewis Hine." 1992. History of Photography 16 (summer): 87104.

Rosler, Martha. 1989. "In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)." In The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography, ed. Richard Bolton. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Seixas, Peter. 1987. "Lewis Hine: From 'Social' to 'Interpretive' Photographer." American Quarterly 39, no. 3: 381409.

Stange, Maren. 1989. Symbols of Ideal Life: Social Documentary Photography in America, 18901950. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Trattner, Walter I. 1970. Crusade for the Children: A History of the National Child Labor Committee and Child Labor Reform in America. Chicago: Quadrangle Books.

George Dimock

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hine, Lewis (1874−1940)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Hine, Lewis (1874−1940)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . (December 18, 2017).

"Hine, Lewis (1874−1940)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from

The Veterans Administration

The Veterans Administration (VA) is an independent federal agency administering benefits and programs to veterans;it achieved cabinet‐level status as the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1988. Established by Congress in 1930, the VA absorbed three separate agencies: the Bureau of Pensions, established in 1833; the National Homes of Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, founded in 1866; and the Veteran's Bureau, created in 1921.

Brig. Gen. Franklin T. Hines served as the first administrator of the VA in 1930–45. Originally called to Washington in 1923, this Utah native reformed the Veterans' Bureau, which had been mired in scandal under Charles R. Forbes, a political crony of President Warren G. Harding. Hines's longevity in office stemmed from his nonpartisanship, hard work, and efficiency, as well as his ability to maintain good relations with Congress and national veterans' organizations, especially the American Legion.

In 1944, Congress vested the agency with responsibility for administering the G.I. Bill for over 16 million eligible veterans. In 1945, President Harry S. Truman named Gen. Omar N. Bradley to head the agency and carry out a series of much needed reforms for its larger roles. Under Bradley's three‐year tenure as administrator, the agency embarked on a massive program of hospital construction and made major improvements in the delivery of medical care to disabled veterans, including the establishment of a Department of Medicine within the agency and the formal affiliation of VA Hospitals with major medical schools.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower implemented the recommendation of a private consultant to streamline the VA and created three major departments within the agency: Medicine and Surgery; Insurance; and Benefits. This newly configured VA administrated less generous packages of G.I. Bill benefits for veterans of wars in Korea and later Vietnam. In 1973, the VA also assumed responsibility from the Department of the Army for military cemeteries.

During the late 1960s, the VA, geared to serving an aging population of veterans from two world wars, came under criticism for failing to provide adequate acute care for servicemen and ‐women injured in the Vietnam War and for a general insensitivity to the particular needs of veterans of that war. For example, many veterans and their supporters protested the reluctance of the agency to acknowledge the long‐term effects of the herbicide Agent Orange. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Max Cleland, a double amputee, as the first Vietnam veteran to head the VA.

In 1988, Congress elevated the VA to a cabinet‐level department, and in 1989, Republican congressman Edward J. Derwinski of Illinois became the first secretary of Veterans Affairs. After the Persian Gulf War (1991), the Department of Veterans Affairs, along with the Department of Defense, was criticized for failing to recognize or treat “Gulf War syndrome,” allegedly caused by exposure to biological and chemical weapons.
[See also Toxic Agents; Veterans: Overview.]


Davis R. B. Ross , Preparing for Ulysses: Politics and Veterans During World War II, 1969.
Richard Severo and and Lewis Milford , The Wages of War: When America's Soldiers Come Home—From Valley Forge to Vietnam, 1989.

G. Kurt Piehler

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"The Veterans Administration." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"The Veterans Administration." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . (December 18, 2017).

"The Veterans Administration." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from

Hine, Lewis

Lewis Hine, 1874–1940, American photographer, b. Oshkosh, Wis. Hine dedicated much of his photographic career, which began shortly after he bought his first camera in 1903, to exposing in sharp, painful images the social evils of the industrial revolution in the United States. He photographed the poverty of newly arrived immigrants and the street and factory life of working children. Many of these were published in such early collections as Charities and the Commons (1908) and Day Laborers before Their Time (1909). Hine's visual emphasis on their plight helped to bring about the passage of child-protection legislation in 1916. Hines also detailed the effects of war on the land and people of Europe, the complex relationship of man and machine, the construction of the Empire State Building (Men at Work, 1932), the effects of drought in the South, and the influence of a Tennessee Valley Authority dam program on the life of a rural community. Hine's work reflects concern, compassion, and a crusading idealism. The power of his images placed him at the forefront of 20th-century documentary photographers.

See International Museum of Photography, Lewis Wicke Hine's Interpretive Photography: The Six Early Projects (1978).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hine, Lewis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Hine, Lewis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 18, 2017).

"Hine, Lewis." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from