Author tracks lives of child workers of early 20th century

Published on Sunday, 20 August 2017 22:03
Written by Petey Oneto

Special to the Herald

SOUTHINGTON - Joe Manning, the author and historian behind the Lewis Hine Project, will be the guest speaker for the Southington Genealogical Society in September.

Manning has been tracking down life stories about children in pictures taken by child labor investigator Lewis Hine. Hine took pictures of the youths from 1908 to 1924, and they’re archived at the Library of Congress.

Manning finds the descendants of these children and then interviews them to find out about the relative in the picture. He publishes his findings on

A social worker for Connecticut from 1970 until his retirement in 1999, Manning has written books featuring history and poetry. He even co-wrote an album of baseball songs. Now, he spends his time tracking down stories from the past.

It started when a friend of Manning’s approached him with one of Hine’s pictures of a girl at a cotton mill. The picture was to be used as a basis of a novel that the friend was planning to write. Manning was asked to help and he tracked down the little girl’s granddaughter in two weeks.

That little girl lived to be 94, and her granddaughter had no idea her grandmother was archived in the Library of Congress.

“It was very emotional,” Manning said in a phone interview. “They didn’t know the photo existed.”

Since that experience, Manning began looking for other descendants of the people in Hine’s pictures. During the last 12 years, he has collected about 350 stories.

About one-third of Hine’s photographs now have names for the faces. Manning said he finds a death record of some sort as well as an obituary to trace the names of survivors.

“If I don’t do this, I’m afraid nobody will before the information and history is lost,” Manning said. “I could make money on it but that money would just go to Foxwoods or lying on the couch.”

Manning, 75, spends his retirement years in Northampton, Mass., and working on the project. He has been featured on CBS News and NPR.

Manning will speak at the Southington Genealogical Society on Thursday, Sept. 26. The meeting will be held at The Orchards at 34 Hobart St. in Southington at 7 p.m. in the second floor community room.

The event is free and does not require a reservation.

For more information, visit

Posted in New Britain Herald, , General News, New Britain on Sunday, 20 August 2017 22:03. Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2017 22:05.