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Exploring 19th-Century Child Labor Laws in the United States

Activity Description

Child Labor Laws in the United States

Students will examine historical photographs and a data table related to 19th-century industrialization and child labor. They will observe and analyze the primary sources and ask questions. This activity could be used near the beginning of a unit on industrialization or the Progressives.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

30-45 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to analyze multiple primary sources to better understand the causes and consequences of child labor in the 19th century.
  • Students will be able to make inferences from information in a data table and historical photographs to explain child labor in the context of industrialization in the United States (1870-1900).

Materials Required

The student version of this activity, 7 pages; it contains images that should be printed in color.

Activity Items

The following items are part of this activity.

  • Breaker boys, Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pa.
  • A group of berry pickers on Newton’s Farm, Cannon, Del.
  • Gainful Workers, Aged 10–14, in the United States, 1870–1930

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will understand and analyze data from multiple sources.


High School History


  • Child labor
  • Late 19th-century industrialization
  • Progressive movement

Skills Taught

  • Analyzing historical photographs
  • Examining primary sources


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