The Newsman of Dallas: From Far Away, Joe Manning Has Found Our City's Lost History

I've introduced the Friends of Unfair Park to Joe Manning before, but to refresh: He's the Massachusetts historian who, from far away, has spent the better part of this year tracking down the descendants of the children captured in those Lewis Wickes Hine photos taken in Dallas in 1913, five years after he'd been commissioned by the National Child Labor Commission in 1908 to document underage workers being abused by employers.

Back in April I'd gotten obsessed with the photos, stored digitally in the Library of Congress's photo archives. Shortly after that, Manning began telling the stories behind them -- which he managed to do by using old census materials and yellowed newspaper accounts and tracking down those kids' kids and sharing with them photos of their parents they never knew existed. To call Manning's detective work invaluable would be to sell it short.

I hadn't heard from Manning for a long while till yesterday. He sent me a note: "It's Joe Manning again. I've added another story. It's about newsboys Louis and Rudy Kartous." That, of course, is them above, their names misspelled. Joe spoke to both Jeanne Hall, daughter of Rudolph; and Louis's son and daughter. Till Joe tracked them down, none had ever seen the photo. I can only imagine their reactions to the revelation.

Joe has posted the lengthy, detailed oral histories here, along with a 1921 piece titled "The Newsboys of Dallas" based upon a survey conducted by 42 senior sociology students at SMU at the time. There are also myriad photos of Rudy and Louis as old men. And, from the Colorado Record in 1912, a story about Rudy's good deed, first reported in the Dallas Times Herald but so extraordinary it became a national tale. Extraordinary. Just extraordinary.

Before you jump to Joe's site and read what he's uncovered, I'll leave you with this. I asked him yesterday: What compels a man who lives so far away to spend so much time telling these forgotten stories? This is what he wrote in response:

Wherever Hine's child labor photos were taken, and he did so in 32 states and the District of Columbia, all of them present me with an opportunity to do two things: to tell the stories of important Americans who got left out of our history books, and to send these photos to the astonished descendants who have no idea they exist. As a historian and sociologist, I am naturally interested in how the lives of these children were affected by the unfortunate circumstances of their formative years, but to be able to give a piece of unknown family history to their sons, daughters and grandchildren is what makes my project so emotional and compelling, and why I plan to continue the project for as long as I am able.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky