August 28, 2014

Poetry Friday--Happy Labor Day!

On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. That holiday was named Labor Day. I wonder if, in August 1911, little Preston knew that on September 4 there would be a holiday celebrating his contribution to the labor force and to America's prosperity?

Caption: Five year old Preston, a young cartoner in Seacoast Canning Co., Factory #2. I saw him at work different times during the day--at 7 a.m., in the afternoon, and at 6 p.m., and he kept at it very faithfully for so young a worker. Location: Eastport, Maine. Photo by Lewis Wickes Hine taken August, 1911, courtesy Library of Congress.

Outside Seacoast Canning Co.

How old am I? I'm five-
years-old last week.
I'll hold up the tin and
the cart'n so you can
see it good. I do this:

I get the tin and I push
it in the cart'n. Get
another tin, push it in
a cart'n. You watchin'?
Get another tin, push...

Uh huh, that's what's I
do every day. But not
at all on Sunday, cause
that's the day we go to
church to save our souls.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

There is a short video available on the canning industry in Eastport. Created by the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, it contains several references to Hine. Access it here.

Now--go enjoy your Labor Day weekend, but first, visit with Jone at Check It Out for the Round-Up!


  1. You've captured "it" once again, Diane. Pride-in-work for 5-year olds should be limited to such things as crayon art hung by refrigerator magnets.

  2. It breaks my heart to see how young some of the workers were!

  3. I feel like a slacker compared to this little guy!

  4. When you share these pictures, I wonder how they survived, Diane. I have a 5 year old granddaughter & compare-wow! I like that your poem was in a simple child's voice, and a "that's how it is" tone, no whine. Wonderful!

  5. Another wonderful photo that speaks volumes. There is such poignancy in the "voice" you've created for the boy.

  6. I'd love to share this with my students, Diane, when we study child labor during the Industrial Revolution. So sad.

  7. You've captured Preston's 5 year old spirit in this poem, Diane, especially the line: "You watchin'?" Thank goodness Labor Day was made a holiday - for all the Preston's of that time and for all of our sakes. = )

  8. Oh man, that was just over 100 years ago. Love how you give those long-ago children a voice.

  9. Diane, it is amazing how you can capture the feelings of each of your characters. This photo highlights the inequities of human rights during the early 1900s. I think this photo and poem would be a great pairing for the 5th graders who are studying human rights.

  10. Oh, my. What a gift that you have given this child -- a voice.

  11. Thanks everyone for your kind words! I apologize for not replying to you all individually. My daughter and her husband closed on a house this week and there's a whole lot of painting (and oven cleaning) going on!

  12. Oh, I almost forgot--teachers feel free to share with your students if the poem fits. It makes me feel good to think that my work might engender some discussion! Many thanks.

  13. Wonderful, Diane! I'll be sharing via my Facebook writer's page on Monday. Happy housewarming to your daughter and son-in-law! Nice that they will be close enough for you to help out.

  14. Nice job with Preston's voice, Diane. Hine did an important service. I really should look him up.