The two boys you see at top are Morris and Louis Shuman in a photo taken on a downtown Dallas street corner in October 1913. Morris is on the left; he was 12 at the time. Louis, his brother, was 7. Maybe you recognize it: It first appeared on Unfair Park in April of last year, when we began running the photos of Dallas children taken by photographer Lewis Wickes Hine for the National Child Labor Commission. Many more would follow.
For close to a century, the photos sat in storage, doubtful their stories would ever be told. As I've mentioned before, they would have to wait for one man to speak for them -- Massachusetts historian Joe Manning, who continues from afar to fill in the blanks. Joe sends word yet again: Using Census materials and archived newspaper clips -- and, most important, interviews with surviving family members -- he has wrapped his research on the so-called Dallas Newsies, concluding with the stories of Morris and Louis, including how they came to Dallas and what became of them after their chance meeting with Hines in Dallas in 1913. Once more, I would not dream of spoiling the story Joe's uncovered.
But, fittingly, as we leave these Hine photos behind, for the moment, Joe also writes about the photographer's process. We are in his debt.
Lewis Hine was a man on a mission, and probably a man in a hurry as well. In the last several months of 1913, he traveled all over the Gulf States in search of child laborers, on farms, at seafood canneries, in cotton mills, and on the streets of cities such as Dallas. His large box camera was cumbersome, certainly by today's standards. It took him a while to set it up, and he probably had only a minute or two to capture the image before the children would become restless, or he was chased away by suspicious employers.
He often knelt down in order to photograph children at eye level, knowing full well that this view would elicit more sympathy. That was certainly the case here. His focus was on young Louis, barefoot and looking very much like the proverbial street urchin. That is why Morris is leaning over; otherwise, his head would have been out of view. Hine makes a cameo appearance of sorts (note his shadow). If Hine had been afforded the opportunity to pry more information out of the Shuman brothers, he might have discovered that they had one thing in common with him -- they were well traveled, but for vastly different reasons.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.