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Rich And Poor

March 2023
1min read

These two pictures write their own editorials on wealth and poverty and how a better world should be managed, but they also have interior interest in their own right—always a problem for the serious propagandist. The grandchildren of that scoundrelly and shameless manipulator of railroads, Jay Gould, have just received lavish presents from their parents, the George Jay Goulds, around 1903 to 1905. They are imported French voiturettes , used as city runabouts and powered by one-cylinder engines, although the little one, seating young Edith, may be only foot-powered. The Gould chauffeur in the grown-ups’ 1902 Panhard-Levassor beams at everything, but the rich little children, saving perhaps Kingdon at the far left, seem bored already. Rightthinking people should be outraged at seeing children so badly spoiled, no doubt, but I would really like to have had one of these toys myself, and for that matter still would.

The same right-thinking people will be shocked by this group of boys who worked long hours in the Ayer textile mills at Lawrence, Massachusetts, no doubt for terrible wages in that supposed golden age before World War I. It is 1911, still a time of short pants or knickers for teenaged boys, and you will note that the Gould boys are wearing them too. The photographer who took this group was Lewis Wickes Hine, who devoted a great deal of his life and talent to fighting against child labor. His gifts, much greater than those of Jacob Riis with the camera, transform his propaganda into art. His subjects liked him and smiled or laughed when they should have looked sad and weary. These boys, mostly of Italian immigrant stock, are enjoying the moment, and one of them is showing off with his cigarette. Macho stuff. Success crowned Hine’s career, and his work is stored in the Library of Congress.

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