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Deliberate, intentional evasion and deception have been found in one case only.
The industries and establishments in which children are employed are now so well known that inspection is easy. Active work is directed to securing the attendance of children under 14.
Below will be found reports of agents : Mr. C. D. HINE,
Secretary of the State Board of Education :SIR-In compliance with your request I send you this report of my doings as agent of the State Board of Education for the year ending December 31st, 1887.
My investigations have been made in the following towns:
Wallingford, Willington, North Haven, Hamden, Sprague, Madison, Guilford,
The principal duty of an agent is to enforce the “Child Labor Act” of 1886.
In the performance of this duty and in accordance with your directions, I have inspected the mechanical and manufacturing establishments in the foregoing towns. The industries visited and employing children under sixteen years of age, consist of thirty-seven varieties. Out of a total of one hundred and twentyfour establishments sixty-six employ children under sixteen, while fifty-eight do not. Of those employing children there are seven each of cotton cloth and woolen factories, five silver-plated ware shops, four silk factories, and three each of paper box and vegetable ivory button shops. Few of the other industries can claim two each of the remaining establishments, and a large majority can claim but a single one. Ten girls and two boys in all under thirteen were found to be employed more or less in these places. Of the twelve, five worked for their parents; one for her custodian and benefactor; and one assisted his father in a shop, not as a regular employee of the firm, but to expedite his father's work. Though these seven worked in term time, they attended
the schools while they were in session. The remaining five were regular employees in shops and factories. One of them was in a lithographing establishment; one in a cotton fabric mill; one in a visiting-card printing establishment, and two in woolen mills. Of these five, the three employed in cotton and woolen mills were working during vacations of the schools. The remaining two were employed through their employer's ignorance of the law or through their inattention to its strict terms. No two of the twelve were found in the same establishment.
It has not yet been deemed advisable to prosecute any of the twelve employers.
All those found at work were promptly dismissed at the requirement of the agent. No case of carelessness or inattention was permitted to escape reproval, and a second violation would probably necessitate a prosecution. Every one of the twelve employers were admonished and their attention directed to the strict prohibition of the statute.
Those employing their own children claimed that the law could not be intended to supersede the parental right to the child's services or to forbid the exercise of the parental privilege and duty to train children in habits of industry.
In forty-nine instances employers were requested to procure the age certificates prescribed by the law.
I have been refused admission to but one factory, and here I was admitted to one room where it was said all the young persons were at work. The grounds of this refusal were the necessity of keeping secret a process of manufacture; that I might inform competitors, if allowed to inspect all parts of the factory; that the rules of the firm excluded all persons except their own work people.
In general, employers have cheerfully permitted inspection and have patiently and candidly answered every inquiry. No instance of hiding children has come to my
notice. As to what the law relating to child labor is, some employers are still in the fog,-a peculiar haze of varying density. Another flood of leaflets in large print containing all the child employment acts might clear up the obscure points. Already some employers are accustomed to the method of inspection and inquiry and are important factors of a growing popular demand for a full enforcement of the compulsory laws. The work of the agents, supplemented by the coöperation of skilled superintendents of labor may
be relied upon to accomplish more definite results whenever their influence and authority is extended from the factory to the families of the illiterate. Uncertainty as to the ages of foreign-born children is a serious obstacle to the enforcement of the law. They and their parents are suspected of deceiving both agent and employer. If the certificates prepared in your office were demanded and obtained by the employer in all doubtful cases, most of the falsehood could be detected. As employers, however, may take their chances and not require the certificate there is frequent opportunity for deception. In nearly every case of the employment of children under thirteen born in the United States, the truth can be speedily ascertained. The birth or sohool records expose the facts. A residence in a particular locality in this State for three years or more diminishes the possibility of successful misrepresentation. But a family of children born in Canada, speaking a foreign language and recently settled in our State, can easily baffle inquiry.
Some means of securing the assistance of the educated and intelligent among our French Canadian population, some way of securing the adoption of uniform laws throughout New England might prove a timely and partial prevention of these abuses. A prominent manufacturer residing in Rhode Island, near the Connecticut line, suggested to me that the laws of Rhode Island and Connecticut relating to child labor should be similar. He explained the mischief possible under the existing laws where the place of employment could be readily changed from one state to the other.
GEO. A. CONANT.
BRISTOL, Jan. 2, 1888. MR. CHARLES D. HINE,
Secretary of the State Board of Education : Sir–The report of my work as agent of the State Board of Education for the enforcement of the law prohibiting child labor is necessarily very brief. A full account of that work will be found in the detailed reports made to your office from time to time. I have been employed, in the main, in perfecting work begun in the preceding year, in investigating special cases, and in prosecuting offenders against the law.
My investigations the past year have served emphatically to confirm the statements of fact, and deductions therefrom, to be found in my report of a year ago.
The principle of the law meets with a growing and hearty approval; a rigid and thorough execution is justified and even demanded.
In two particulars the effect of the enactment and enforcement of the law has in the year past more than in the previous year been quite marked.
1. Employers have felt in a new and imperative fashion a necessity to know what children are in their employ, and somewhat as to their character, their personality, and their surroundings.
2. The attention, not only of employers but of the community generally, has been awakened, quickened, and confirmed as to the desirability and necessity of enforcing the regular and constant attendance
school of children in their early years. Now, it may be difficult to say whether this effect is due to business sagacity or quickened moral sense. In any event, the result cannot fail to have a great and increasing influence for good.
If the law is to remain as it is, I do not anticipate any considerable violation of its provisions, nor any great difficulty in its execution.
The points needing attention are these:
I. It is almost impossible to secure definite information as to the ages
of the children for these reasons: (1) In many instances the parents and children are so ignorant that they can with difficulty be made to understand what is wanted of them, and in any case cannot express themselves clearly or accurately on this or any other subject.
(2) In too many instances the age of the children is merely a matter of speculation with the parents ;-they preserve no record, and their memory on the subject is worthless.
(3) The number of those who will knowingly give false statements as to the age of their children is lamentably large.
Two suggestions may be worthy of consideration:
(1) It is well known that the most trustworthy records of births attainable are the baptismal records of the Roman Catholic church. I have always found the priests of that church very willing to coöperate and to lend any assistance in their power in these matters. Now if the coöperation of the authorities of that church could be obtained, and an enrollment of the names and ages of the children coming into a parish be made by the resident priest, a record including many children would be secured of great value.
(2) Every parent making a false statement as to age should be prosecuted, whatever the difficulty in obtaining evidence. Nothing has a more salutary effect in promoting truth-telling than convictions under the law.
II. I am convinced that employers generally intend to live up to the law, and that it is growing in favor with them every day.
In large manufactories, however, it often requires considerable vigilance to prevent: children under legal age from creeping in, especially where help is in demand, and where parents are untruthful and importunate. The chief need of inspection is to call the attention of employers to the law.
If employers would register every child entering their employ, together with necessary facts about him as to age, residence, etc., the very act of registering would serve to make vigilance in these matters mechanical, and to a great extent do away with the necessity of inspection.
If the State would furnish a uniform, register for this purpose, am quite sure that it would willingly be used by employers generally, and would result in a certain and inexpensive enforcement the law.
The law is not claimed to be perfect. Under it possibly the best results cannot be obtained.
Endless modifications have been suggested, e. g. that the employment of children of very poor parents should be permitted with the consent of the selectmen; that the employment of children in 'vacations should be allowed, etc.
However, the law works well, and I am convinced that the sound sense of those whose opinion is worth most would be in favor of extending rather than narrowing its provisions.
I content myself with offering two suggestions:
1. No child under, say 18 years of age, should be allowed to work on a night force in a factory.
2. In an American shop, factory, or store, it ought to be impossible to find at work a boy or girl of any age who cannot read and write.
It is, however, undoubtedly wise that in their inception both the enactment and enforcement of such regulations should be free from complications. The time, mode, and scope of modifications of, or additions to the existing law is left where it belongs, with the legislature.
John J. JENNINGS.