Texas History

Once, These Were Just 100-Year-Old Photos of Child Workers in Dallas. Now, They're Stories.

Fret not: We're running dangerously low on Lewis Wickes Hine photos, taken in Dallas in October 1913 as part of his federally commissioned child-labor abuse series, not yet published on Unfair Park. And I know I said last week's update on Massachusetts historian Joe Manning's efforts to find the relatives of the children featured in these photos would more than likely be the end of this particular series.

But Joe has sent another update. He writes, "It's getting to be quite a story!" And it is.

What you see above is a picture captioned "Group of typical mill girls. Dallas Cotton Mill. Location: Dallas, Texas." No names are given. But one of the girls is indeed familiar: On the far right is 15-year-old Rosy Phillips, who we met, along with her younger brother Exie, last month. She actually appears in three Hine photos, including this one we've not yet run. (Its caption reads, "Eternal vigilance will be needed to keep these little ones out of the mill.")

Manning, who has already found the son of newsie Sam Stillman, tracked down Rosy Phillips's daughter as well. Her name is Beatrice, and like Stillman's son (a college prof who actually taught Hine's photos), she had no idea her mother appeared in these important pictures now in the Library of Congress. Joe writes:

After all, her mother died when she was seven years old, and she had never seen a photo of her mother as a girl, until I sent the Hine photo to her. She told me that Rosa married Frank Lamb in Arkansas at the age of 15, had three children by him, and all three of them died very young. She doesn't know their names. Then she moved to Virginia and married again, in 1926. She doesn't know if her mother divorced Frank Lamb, or if he died. Her second husband was John C. Boone, who was only 19 when she married him. She was about 27. They had seven children, but five of them died very young or were stillborn. She has no idea what their names were or even if they were boys or girls. The only ones who survived were Beatrice and her sister, Elsie.
Which is hardly the whole story. Manning has more on his Web site, "Tracking Down the Dallas Newsies," including information concerning the fate of Exie Phillips. In the future, I'll update this item as Manning posts further updates. I expect he'll keep me quite busy.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky