We can't just grab a time machine and see what life was like 100 years ago, but we can appreciate photography from that era. Today's technological gadgets, clothing, and forms of entertainment mean that life for kids today is way different from that of kids 100 years ago.
These photographs also show us there are common elements to what it's like to be a child. From child labor practices that no longer exist in first-world countries, immigrants entering Ellis Island, and children playing on the street, we can see there are some things society still needs to change.
We can also learn a lot from these pictures of childhood 100 years ago. Parenting practices were different, as were ideas of what was important in order to teach a child how to behave properly. We can even reminisce about the multiculturalism that already existed in major cities around the world.
From learning the Hebrew alphabet to group potty-training and gas masks, some of these pictures may seem funny. Other might remind us of the difficulties of life in the late 19th and early 20th century. These pictures remind us that being a child 100 years ago had its own set of challenges and advantages.
20 The relationship between kids and machines was different
This picture is from an article on Gizmodo Australia about the relationship between children and machines over the span of 100 years. It's true that in the early 20th century, it was legal for children to work. The jobs were often dangerous and safety requirements were lax.
Today, children don't usually make machines but play with them instead. The article also points out that some school districts today even provide free laptops to students who can't afford them. A lot has changed indeed!
19 Kids were allowed to take more risks
Though children still play outside nowadays, they might be monitored a bit more than their predecessors. For one, helicopter parenting became popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to Psychology Today, this damaged the concept of independence for adults who grew up this way.
Looking at this picture, we can see that children 100 years ago were simply allowed to play. For better or worse, instead of expecting to be exceedingly safe, children were encouraged to play outside and take risks.
18 Children came into the world a bit differently
Children born before the 1980s probably didn't come into the world with their father's assistance. That's because many in the women's rights movement insisted on having fathers present in the delivery room. Hospitals slowly changed their ways, but expecting future dads in the delivery room wasn't so common until the 1980s.
In addition, according to Stuff Mom Never Told You, only half of the births in the early 20th century took place in hospitals. That means many children were born at home and delivered via midwife.
17 Ellis Island: where children learned to dream
Ellis Island was an important entry point for immigrants from Europe to the United States. Open from 1892 to 1954, up to 40% of Americans can trace immigrant ancestors to this port according to the New Republic.
The young girl pictured above is from Alsace-Lorraine. This is a German-speaking part of France. According to Mashable, the bow she's wearing signifies her religion. It was worn by single women and its color may signify that she was a Protestant.
16 Children celebrating their roots in Ellis Island
Moving to another country is difficult for anyone, but can be especially traumatic to children. It's hard to understand that your entire life has been uprooted and that home is in a different continent. This picture of young boys is said to be from Sweden. It's clear that their parents wanted their children to be proud of their roots.
Taken between 1905-1914, this picture was part of a display of colorized photos published in TIME Magazine. It certainly casts these young boys in a different light.
15 Before the earthquake
According to the Daily Mail, this picture is from a rare collection of photographs of Chinatown in San Francisco. In the early 19th century, San Francisco's Chinatown had the largest population of Asians outside of Asia.
Though it was a thriving part of San Francisco, Chinatown also suffered several misfortunes. A fire destroyed large parts of the city in 1848, and an earthquake also leveled the city in 1906. This is one of the rare surviving pictures of life in Chinatown during the 19th century.
14 Parenting practices were certainly different back then!
Someday parents of the future will look at something today's parents did and wonder what they were thinking. This picture is an illustration of something exactly no one does today. According to Vintag.es, some 19th-century parenting books suggested toilet training at a very young age.
Some of these books even suggested starting at the age of two months. Back then, it was believed that learning to use the toilet at a young age promoted hygiene and developed good character.
13 Kids sometimes wore gas masks
If you were a child 100 years ago, you might have had to wear a gas mask. That's because some people believed that poison attacks could occur at any time, according to Vintag.es.
According to Object Lessons, children were usually scared of wearing these masks. As a result, some designers tried to make them bright and colorful.
Unfortunately, some of these gas masks contained asbestos, which we now know is a harmful substance. Still, this picture shows that parents were trying to cover all their bases during difficult times.
12 Kids had extracurriculars back then, too
A photographer took this picture of a Jewish African-American congregation in Harlem. This was during the 1940s. The picture is now a part of the Smithsonian's collection. This picture is known for trying to present the children in a regal manner, according to TIME Magazine.
The 1940s was a tough time to be African-American in the United States. This picture shows that even children back then were expected to participate in extracurricular activities that were important to their identity. Plus, it shows a little-known aspect of Harlem.
11 Children and parents still dreamt about moving on up
Photographer Russell Lee took this picture of Latino children in Texas, circa 1939. Lee was interested in showing life for Mexicans in parts of the United States that were once Mexico.
This photograph shows that people who woke up in a new country after the Mexican-American War were able to retain their culture despite a new government. A mother and her child who are interested in moving on up. Many children growing up today probably have similar aspirations and dreams.
10 Behold the latest in baby chair designs
The Danish are known for how they raise their children differently. This country invented LEGOs, encourages children to play while learning. Nordic children's designs went through several changes in the 20th century. These chairs were designed in 1961, so they're not from 100 years ago, but they still represent a bygone era.
This chair was known as the BabyBjörn Babysitter and was one of the first baby bouncers on the market. It just goes to show that parents back then were also looking for things that could soothe their children.
9 Children used to work with mules
Children worked in various different industries 100 years ago. Taken by photographer Lewis W. Hine, this is a picture of a little boy who worked at a mill. His job was to work with mules in Burlington, Vermont.
Though not much is known about the little boy who did this job, we now know that children aren't expected to work like this today. Eventually, society felt it was better to put children in school. Life today is quite different for children in places like Vermont.
8 Kids were injured at work
Another picture by Lewis W. Hine, this picture was used as research for author Kathleen O'Dell who was writing her book set in this era. This little girl is in Eastport, Maine. This town used to be an important fishing port back in the day.
Sadly, she lost one of her limbs in circumstances that aren't revealed. This was a common occurrence in several industries. Hines' photographs, and that of others like him, were instrumental in getting adults to change child labor laws.
7 Young miners
Lewis Hine's photographs, shown here on Fubiz, show that children were expected to grow up much faster 100 years ago. Nowadays, children can expect to go to school. In fact, many parents and teachers constantly tell children that school is their job.
Aside from working in fishing ports, and factories, young boys often worked in mines. Surrounded by explosives, little boys worked to find metals necessary for various industries. It's clear that not having to do these jobs has only been positive for children today.
6 Stolen Generation
According to Newshub, many Aboriginal children from Australia were charged with criminal records in the 1960s. This shows that children of color all over the world have often had to struggle to have their needs met.
Some children were taken from their parents' homes and raised with adoptive families. The Stolen Generation encompasses children who were removed from their birth families between the 1900s and 1960s. Though this picture was taken in the 1960s, it's a small slice of something that happened over a long period.
5 This era was perfect for unique portraits
According to Uricchio Photography, this picture was taken by Richard Samuel Roberts. There's no exact explanation as to why this child had his picture taken with a rooster, but we can deduce a few things from his facial expression.
First off, he doesn't look entirely happy. This could be because older cameras required people to sit or stand still in order not to be blurry. This is a plausible explanation according to TIME Magazine. We do have to consider that it was much harder being a black child back then, and it's still hard now. Not smiling makes perfect sense.
4 These kids preserved their culture!
This picture was taken by a photographer called G. Rank around 1933. According to this Pinterest post, it's a picture of children in Kihnu, Estonia dressed in traditional clothing.
Clothing in Kihnu is now recognized for its craftsmanship. In fact, UNESCO recognizes Kihnu, Estonia in its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The picture above shows us the beautiful traditional clothing that makes it so, and the young children who grew up and kept such traditions alive for us.
3 Friendship between girlfriends was always a thing
Photographer Lewis Hine was instrumental in helping change the idea of how children should work. According to My Modern Met, this is a picture of three girls on break in the factory district of New York in 1912. Though these young girls were clearly on break from work, they also share a bond that predates high school cliques today.
Hine's work focused on taking pictures of children factory workers, immigrants in Ellis Island, and the marginalized. Thanks to him, conditions for children have changed significantly.
2 Kids always enjoyed some friendly competition!
Germany's history in the first half of the 20th century is pretty dark. According to Sleek Magazine, this picture was taken by Heinrich Zille. Despite the fact that Germany was embroiled in both World Wars, we can appreciate that many children played and lead normal lives.
This is quite different from today's world. Though wars still exist, it's true that the human will to survive will always allow an innocent child to find ways to play. Plus, we're sure even children today enjoy somersault contests!
1 We always scream for ice cream
This picture was taken in Iran circa late 19th/early 20th century, according to NPR. It shows a group of children and possibly their parents getting some ice cream. It goes to show that children will always love ice cream.
Plus, it also gives us a glimpse of a life in a country many people know little about. Though we can't tell what anyone is thinking from this picture alone, even children today know what it's like to sit around with some ice cream on a sunny day. Some things change, and others stay the same, right?
Sources: gizmodo.com.au, newslocker.com, mentalfloss.com, mashable.com, pinterest.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk, vintag.es, time.com, russell-lee-road.com, twohundredby200.co.uk, historyplace.com, kathleenodellsbookblog.blogspot.com, fubiz.net, newshub.co.nz, leimaxes.ga, pinterest.co.uk, mymodernmet.com, sleek-mag.com, npr.org, psychologytoday.com, stuffmomnevertoldyou.com, newrepublic.com, time.com, objectlessons.org, babybjorn.com, historyplace.com, newshub.co.nz, uricchiophotography.wordpress.com, time.com, ich.unesco.org