About the Author

Thomas G. Andrews is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado—Denver, specializing in the social and environmental history of the Rocky Mountain West.

Coal and the Industrial Revolution

Breaker Boys at Work (1911)


Lewis Hine traveled the U.S. in the early 20th-century, taking photographs of child laborers for the National Child Labor Committee. This photograph, taken in 1911 Pennsylvania, shows "breaker boys"—boys employed by mines to pick impurities out of newly broken coal as it rolled past on conveyor belts. The boys might cut fingers and hands, lose limbs, or contract lung diseases from working in the hazardous, dusty conditions.

Hine captioned this photo, "A view of Ewen Breaker of the Pa. Pennsylvania Coal Co. The dust was so dense at times as to obscure the view. This dust penetrates the utmost recesses of the boys' lungs."