In 1908, Lewis Wickes Hine began documenting the conditions of young workers in Washington, D.C. This photograph of boys selling newspapers outside of the Capitol in 1912 ended up in the files of the Committee on the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia passed a compulsory education law in 1864, although its enforcement was challenging. The notation Hine typed on the back of the photograph observed that the three boys were about 9 years old. One newsboy was a “chronic truent [sic],” and another had already been working as a newsboy since the age of 6. Their work required them to rise early and work long days, until all their papers were sold.
Before the investigative hearing, House committees prepared by gathering extensive evidence related to the issue. Hine’s documentary photographs, often depicting gritty, true-to-life scenes, made their way into the investigative files of the Committee on the District of Columbia to bolster proposed legislation that would ban child labor in the District.