New York – Children Playing, The Dark Side of the Images.

The photographs of healthy kids playing with rosy cheeked, plump faced dolls are cute, but where did the dolls – and their clothing – come from?

Faces out of time #3

Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls. New York City, March 1912

Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls. New York City, March 19121

Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls. New York City, March 1912
In the pre-World War I years of 1911 and 1912, photographer Lewis Wickes Hine2 was so struck by the wretched conditions in which poor parents and their children made Campbell Kid dolls that he sought out some of the privileged children who played with and treasured them.3

Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls. New York City, March 1912

Same children with dolls, different pose4

Putting a Campbell Kid doll to sleep. March 1912

Putting a Campbell Kid doll to sleep. March 19125

Campbell Soup Company got its start in 1869 by Joseph A. Campbell, a fruit merchant from Bridgeton, New Jersey, and Abraham Anderson, an icebox manufacturer from South Jersey, with Anderson leaving in 1896.  The red and bright white color scheme that graces its cans today was adopted in 1898.

Campbell Kids first appeared in ads in 1904.  “Starting in 1905, they first appeared on the sides of streetcars and in magazine advertisements, first in black and white, and later in full color. They were so cute that the company licensed the E.I. Horsman Company to make dolls in their likeness” as promotional items. Enormously popular, other companies scrambled for the right to make them and they “were sold in many stores, such as Montgomery Ward and Sears. If a child in those days owned a doll, it was quite likely to be a Campbell Kids doll.”6

Little girl conversing with a Campbell Kid doll. March 1912

Little girl conversing with a Campbell Kid doll. March 19127

The images of children with Campbell Kid dolls are from the National Child Labor Committee Collection (NCLC) at the Library of Congress as are the images of homeworkers making the dolls and doll clothing.

Between 1908 and 1924, NCLC investigative photographer Lewis Wickes Hines documented working and living conditions of children in the United States. His work was instrumental in changing child labor laws in the United States.

Mrs. Alfonso Ricca, 71 Sullivan St. 2nd floor back. Making rompers for Campbell Kids she said. Husband out of work. Location: New York, New York State

Mrs. Alfonso Ricca, making rompers for Campbell Kids8

Already desperately ill with tuberculosis, Annie Maier was photographed sewing doll clothes in her family’s New York basement apartment in 1911

Already desperately ill with tuberculosis, Annie Maier was photographed sewing doll clothes in her family’s  New York basement apartment in 19119, 10

Annie Maier, the 16 year old daughter of a New York Jewish family, was photographed at the sewing machine in the kitchen of her basement apartment making doll clothes for the Campbell Kids – working for a contractor, not the Campbell Company.  Given the materials and a pattern, she was paid a few cents for each piece after the contractor collected the work.

Annie’s pale complexion contrasted sharply with the plump, ruddy health of the Campbell Kids, icons of health and nutrition. Her very ill father had already be committed to a tuberculosis hospital, so there was no male provider. A relief society had been helping them, but stopped, refusing to help unless the seriously ill girl – ill with tuberculosis herself – agreed to be hospitalized. She refused and, instead “was working on dolls’ clothes with tuberculosis progressing toward its final stages.”10

Annie Meyer, making Campbell-kids' pinafores in her basement home

Annie Meyer, making Campbell-kids’ pinafores in her basement home11

Making dolls legs for Campbell Kids. Cattena family

Making dolls legs for Campbell Kids. Cattena family12

Making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room

Making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room13

Romana making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room

Romana making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room14

In one typical family in 1912, “the highest wage was $12.00 a week for operating on dolls clothes earned by the combined labor of the father, mother, and three children.”15

The month after the most recent of these photos, the Titanic, full of wealthy travelers and poor immigrants, sank after colliding with an iceberg.

Note: This is a very much expanded update to a post originally published July 24, 2012.


End notes:

  1. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls. See photos showing where they are made.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003451/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  2. Lewis Wickes Hine was an American sociologist and photographer. Hine used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing the child labor laws in the United States.
  3. Abbott, Elizabeth, A History of Marriage: From Same Sex Unions to Private Vows and Common Law, the Surprising Diversity of a Traditione, page 188, Seven Stories Press (January 4, 2011); Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  4. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Children playing with Campbell kid dolls.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003452/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  5. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Putting a Campbell Kid to sleep. See photos showing where they are made.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003454/PP/. (Accessed November 22, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  6. When Were The Campbell Soup Kids Created? – CulinaryLore.com (accessed 11/22/2017)
  7. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Little girl conversing with a Campbell Kid. See photos showing where they are made.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003453/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  8. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Mrs. Alfonso Ricca, 71 Sullivan St. 2nd floor back. Making rompers for Campbell Kids she said. Husband out of work. Location: New York, New York State. 1911. December. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003312/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  9. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Annie Maier or Meyer, making Campbell-Kids’ pinafores in her basement home, 71[?] E. 108th St. She was reported to have tuberculosis. Working in the Kitchen. See also #2715. Location: New York, New York State. 1911. December. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003315/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  10. Larkin, Jack, Where We Worked: A Celebration Of America’s Workers And The Nation They Built, page 133, Lyons Press; First Edition edition (November 23, 2010)
  11. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Annie Maier or Meyer, making Campbell-kids’ pinafores in her basement home. 71 E. 108 Street. She was reported to have tuberculosis. Working in the kitchen. see also No. 2713.Location: New York, New York State. 1911. December. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/ncl2004003317/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  12. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. 5 P.M. Making dolls legs for Campbell Kids. Cattena family, 71 Sullivan St., 5th floor front. As soon as the photo was taken, Rose carried the box full of finished legs to the Aetna Doll and Toy Co, whose name was on the box. Tessie, on the right lives down stairs and does this work there. Was helping here. Rose is 14 yrs. old. Lena, deformed, is 12, Nettie, 9 yrs. old is very deft. They all work after school and often until 10 P.M. Location: New York, New York State 1912. February. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003397/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  13. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room, 59 Thompson St., N.Y., 4th floor, front–Romana family. The little boys, 5 and 7 years old, help to break the threads, the older boy, about 12 years old, operates the machine when the mother is not using it.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003458/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  14. Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Making dresses for Campbell Kid Dolls in a dirty tenement room, 59 Thompson St., N.Y. 4th floor front. Romana family. The older boy, about 12 years old, operates the machine when the mother is not using it, and when she operates, he helps the little ones, 5 and 7 years old, break the thread.Location: New York, New York State. 1912. March. Photograph retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ncl2004003457/PP/. (Accessed November 21, 2017.) (See more on Flickr)
  15. Foreman-Brunell, Miriam, Made to Play House: Dolls and the Commercialization of American Girlhood, 1830-1930, page 113, Johns Hopkins University Press (October 9, 1998)
america, american history, child labor, faces out of time, history, new york, photography

Comments on this entry are closed.

%d bloggers like this:

This site uses cookies for various nonintrusive purposes. See our Privacy Policy for how they are used. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

This notice is a European Union requirement for sites with advertising or sales. The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close