… is from pages 50-51 of the original edition of the late Wesleyan University economic historian Stanley Lebergott’s important 1964 volume, Manpower in Economic Growth (footnote deleted):
In Rhode Island, where the mills began, 42 percent of those who staffed the cotton mills in 1832 were in fact boys under 12; the total proportion of children was still greater. The average for New England and the country as a whole was about 20 percent. These children provided a substantial supplement to family income.
DBx: Ordinary people in ‘rich’ America 190 years ago were unimaginably poor by the standards of early 21st-century middle-class America. As such, children back then – even in ‘rich’ America – worked to provide support for families.
Keep this fact in mind when you next encounter someone self-righteously denouncing working conditions in countries less prosperous than the United States, and then suffixing these denunciations with moralistic calls on the U.S. government to restrict the ability of firms in poorer countries to offer their wares for sale to Americans.