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Mortaria Family Makes Silk Flowers in New York, New York, February 1912

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Mortaria Family in New York, New York,  February 1912
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Hine, Lewis W., "Family of Peter Mortaria," February 1912


This photograph is of the Mortaria family in their apartment in New York, New York in February 1912. The photo was taken at 8 p.m., but they were all still working at the table because their work - creating silk flowers - was not finished. The small child on the left is not yet four years old, yet she works, irregularly, on flowers all day. According to the photographer, Lewis Hine, in spite of a sore throat, she was "working steadily all the time I was there, occasionally dropping a sigh that was very pathetic." He said her father, Peter, said that she likes to work. She could make about a dozen wreaths a day. Many families like the Mortaria's made flowers up to 14 hours a day.

Source-Dependent Questions

  • Look closely at the photo and describe what the family is doing.
  • The youngest child was almost four years old. Discuss why families would have put their children, even their youngest children, to work.
  • It was 8 p.m. at night when this photo was taken. The family often worked 14-hour days to create all the flowers needed. What were the advantages and disadvantages of industrialization?

Citation Information 

Hine, Lewis W., "Family of Peter Mortaria," February 1912. Courtesy of Library of Congress