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A South Carolina Textile Mill Owner Explains Child Labor

In 1914 members of Congress were preparing to vote on the the Palmer-Owen Child Labor Bill, which would have banned interstate commerce in goods produced using the labor of children. Lewis Parker was the owner and manager of several textile mills, and he testified before the Congressional Committee on Labor about why his mills used children as workers.

It is not possible for a man who has been working on a farm who is an adult—after the age of 21 years, for instance—to become a skilled employee in a cotton mill. His fingers are knotted and gnarled; he is slow in action, whereas activity is required in working in the cotton mills. Therefore, as a matter of necessity, the adult of the family had to come to the cotton mill as an unskilled employee, and it was the children of the family who became the skilled employees in the cotton mills. For that reason it was the children who had to support the families for the time being. I have seen instances in which a child of 12 years of age, working in the cotton mills, is earning one and one-half times as much as his father of 40 or 50 years of age.

Source | Testimony of Lewis W. Parker to the Committee on Labor, House of Representatives, 63rd Congress, 2nd Session, May 22, 1914.
Creator | Lewis W. Parker
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | Lewis W. Parker, “A South Carolina Textile Mill Owner Explains Child Labor,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 28, 2021,



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