Primary Source of the Month
Juvenile Court: An 8-year-old boy charged with stealing a bicycle, May 5, 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
This 1910 photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine provides an early historical perspective of an American juvenile court, the first of which was established in 1899. Until that time, children appeared in criminal court along with adults. Definitive national institutions and procedures for juvenile justice were not developed for some time after this photograph was taken. Over the next 50 years, juvenile courts had nearly sole jurisdiction over youth charged with criminal activity. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the courts moved towards formal procedures that gave youthful offenders protections similar to those guaranteed adults, while also moving away from placing every child that appeared before them in an institution. Since the 1980s there has been a movement towards harsher punishments for youthful offenders.
The image is part of the National Child Labor Committee Collection. From 1908-1924, Lewis Wicke Hines photographed children at home, work, and play to document the conditions in which they lived. The collection is held by Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. It contains over 5,100 photographic images and serves as an excellent resource for research into the lives of children in the early 20th century. To learn more, visit the National Child Labor Committee Collection.
This article was written by Margret Atkinson, elementary school teacher, Baton Rouge, LA; and Bill Neer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Literacy, Lemoyne College, Syracuse, NY.