Both before and after the Civil War, children were a significant part of the workforce at the Athens Factory. Before the Civil War, these children would have been both enslaved Black and free white kids.

Unfortunately, there are no known photos of kids working at the Athens Manufacturing Company, but there is one photo (taken around 1910) of children employed locally at the Whitehall Mill (located near the intersection of Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road; now condominiums) and there are many early 20th-century photos of children working in Georgia taken by photographer and anti-child labor activist Lewis Hine.

Children working at Whitehall Mill (1910)

Whitehall Mill was located at the south end of Milledge near where it dead ends into Whitehall Road. To locate the old mill, take a left on Whitehall and an immediate right after the road crossed the river. The mill is now condominiums.

Georgia allowed factory work for children and had some of the nation’s most permissive child labor laws. Campaigning for reform of these laws became a popular progressive era cause for outsiders (like Lewis Hine) and for Athens natives like Jacqueline Wilkins.

Some Adolescents in a Georgia Cotton Mill by Lewis Hine (1909)

This photo was taken in Macon, but our local work force was similar. After Emancipation, mill work in Athens was largely racially segregated and/or limited to white workers. Lewis Hine took many photos of mill workers and advocated for improved working conditions for children.