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Photographer Lewis Hine, who documented the plight of child laborers in the early 1900s, shot this image of Baltimore-born Marie Kriss, 8 years old, who shucked oysters and picked shrimp at Biloxi Canning Co. in Biloxi, Mississippi, when not tending to a baby. She made 25 cents some days.
Photographer Lewis Hine, who documented the plight of child laborers in the early 1900s, shot this image of Baltimore-born Marie Kriss, 8 years old, who shucked oysters and picked shrimp at Biloxi Canning Co. in Biloxi, Mississippi, when not tending to a baby. She made 25 cents some days. (National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)

For almost 15 years, retired social worker Joe Manning has been tracking down descendants of people photographed by Lewis Hine. “It comes from being incredibly curious,” said Manning, who grew up in Maryland and now lives in Massachusetts.

A former school teacher, Hine traveled the country documenting child labor in the early 1900s. He shot children working the berry fields outside Baltimore and manning the city’s factories; a life-size cutout of a boy holding a crate of cans is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. At times disguised as a bible salesman, he interviewed families that migrated south through an abusive system of contract labor. Promised steady paychecks, they returned to Baltimore, penniless.

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Hine’s 5,000 photos of child laborers in America, many commissioned by the National Child Labor Committee, live on at the Library of Congress website. But until now, the lives of his subjects after their picture was taken have been a mystery.

One of Hine’s subjects was Marie Kriss, a girl who moved with her Polish-speaking family from 757 South Luzerne Ave. in Baltimore to Mississippi. In the 1911 photo, Kriss wears a dirty smock and a weary grimace. She shucked oysters and picked shrimp at the Biloxi Canning Company when not watching the baby, Hine’s caption notes, and made 25 cents some days. (Hine’s caption said she was 7 at the time of the photo, but Manning thinks she was really 8.)

In 2016, Manning located Kriss’ granddaughter, Sandra Beaugez of Mississippi, living not far from the former canning company. Beaugez had never seen Hine’s photo of her grandmother before Manning sent it to her.

“It breaks my heart,” she told Manning, according to an interview published on his blog. Kriss, who later would lose part of a finger from handling shrimp, never moved back to Baltimore before she died in 1993.

“But she never, ever complained. Never,” Beaugez told Manning.

Despite their hardscrabble youths, many of the children Hine photographed went on to live meaningful lives, Manning said, and, like Kriss, were remembered fondly by their families.

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