Child Labor in USA Decades Past. Not As Much Has Changed Has You Might Think

Eugene Dalton

For nine years this 16-year-old boy has been newsboy and messenger for drug stores and telegraph companies. Eugene Dalton, November 1913, Fort Worth, Texas. Some results of messenger and newsboy work.

He was recently brought before the Judge of the Juvenile Court for incorrigibility at home. Is now out on parole, and was working again for drug company when he got a job carrying grips in the Union Depot. He is on the job from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (17 hours a day) for seven days in the week. His mother and the judge think he uses cocaine, and yet they let him put in these long hours every day. He told me “There ain’t a house in ‘The Acre’ (red-light district) that I ain’t been in. At the drug store, all my deliveries were down there.” Says he makes $15 to $18 a week.

(Photo and caption courtesy of


Fortunately, this has changed in our society unless you work in agriculture:

Under 12: You may work outside of school hours in any non-hazardous job on a small farm that is exempt from the federal minimum wage provisions as long as you have parental consent.
12 or 13: You may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on a farm where your parent(s) work or with written parental consent.

14 or 15: You can work outside of school hours in any non-hazardous agricultural job.

16 or older: You can work in any farm job at any time.

Fortunately, these invasive government regulations don’t apply to family owned farms where youths of any age may work.

Youth of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parent or person standing in place of their parent.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: